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(Ismael Mohamad / United Press International)

Irish Ship to Gaza release documentation of boat sabotage

The Irish Ship to Gaza campaign released documentation today that they say shows the MV Saoirse, docked in the Turkish coastal port of Gocek, was sabotaged in way “intended to endanger and/or inflict injury or death on Irish citizens as they went about their lawful right to sail on the high seas.”

The MV Saoirse was meant to take part in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla which was scheduled to make its way to Gaza this week to break Israel’s naval blockade and siege on the occupied terroritory. It is the second ship to be found damaged and most likely sabotaged.

Meanwhile, Israel, the US State Department and Zionist groups are threatening activists and exerting pressure on all fronts to try to stop the flotilla from sailing.

While US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has given Israel the green light to use force against the flotilla, scandalously allowing for the harming of US citizens, the Irish foreign minister Eamon Gilmore has urged to Israel’s ambassador to Ireland that “Israel must exercise all possible restraint and avoid any use of military force if attempting to uphold their naval blockade.” He also said that it was the Irish government’s “view that the Gaza blockade was ‘unjust and counterproductive.’ He noted that Ireland and the EU had repeatedly urged Israel to open up the border crossings into Gaza.”

The Irish Ship to Gaza released a statement describing the discovery of the sabotage:

Concerns for the boat first emerged on Monday evening following a short trip near the Goecek marina and an inspection was carried out by divers and by skipper Shane Dillon on Tuesday morning. Evidence was found that the shaft of the starboard propeller has been interfered with and it was decided to take the boat out of the water for a further visual inspection. On Wednesday, the boat was put on land at a local shipyard and the extent of the sabotage was immediately visible.

The propeller shaft had been weakened by saboteurs who cut, gouged or filed a piece off the shaft. This had weakened the integrity of the shaft, causing it to bend badly when put in use. The damage was very similar to that caused to the Juliano, another flotilla ship, in Greece. The consequent damage would have happened gradually as the ship was sailing and would have culminated in a breach of the hull.

The Irish Ship to Gaza campaign believes that Israel has questions to answer and must be viewed as the chief suspect in this professional and very calculating act of sabotage.

Commenting on the attack from Goecek in Turkey, Dr Fintan Lane, national coordinator of Irish Ship to Gaza, who own the vessel, said: “This is an appalling attack and should be condemned by all right-thinking people. It is an act of violence against Irish citizens and could have caused death and injury. If we had not spotted the damage as a result of a short trip in the bay, we would have gone to sea with a dangerously damaged propeller shaft and the boat would have sunk if the hull had been breached. Imagine the scene if this had happened at nighttime.”

He continued: “One of the most shocking aspects is the delayed nature of the sabotage. It wasn’t designed to stop the ship from leaving its berth; instead, it was intended that the fatal damage to the ship would occur while she was at sea and this could have resulted in the deaths of several of those on board. This was a potentially murderous act.”

Dr Lane, who was on board Challenger 1 in last year’s flotilla, said: “The Freedom Flotilla is a non-violent act of practical and humanitarian solidarity with the people of Gaza, yet Israel continues to use threats and violence to delay its sailing. They attacked us in international waters last year; now they are attacking us in Turkish and Greek ports. There is no line that Israel won’t cross.”

The statement adds:

Also speaking from Goecek, the skipper of the MV Saoirse, Shane Dillon, said: “The damage sighted and inspected on the starboard propeller shaft on the MV Saoirse had the potential to cause loss of life to a large number of those aboard. The nature of the attack and malicious damage was such that under normal circumstances the vessel would most likely have sunk at sea. If the ship was operating at high engine revs, the damage done by the saboteurs would have caused the shaft to shear and the most likely outcome would be the rupturing of the hull and the vessel foundering. If, as was intended, the vessel had proceeded to Gaza at reduced revs, the stern tube would have been forced off line and a large and rapid ingress of water would have resulted, sinking the vessel.”

Mr Dillon continued: “The shaft was filmed and photographed when the vessel was lifted from the water on Wednesday afternoon in a shipyard in the Turkish coastal village of Goecek. A local marine engineer inspected the shaft and his opinion was that the interference was the work of professional saboteurs intent on disabling the Saoirse. However, the most shocking aspect of the attack was that its intention was to cause failure of the shaft when the vessel was offshore and this shows a total disregard for human life.”

He ended: “It is also worth noting that the damage inflicted on the Saoirse was identical to that that caused to the Greek/Swedish ship, the Juliano, which was sabotaged in the Greek port of Piraeus a few days ago.”

In a video released by the Irish Ship to Gaza campaign, Fintan Lane describes how the damange to the ship would have almost certainly cost lives, adding that “the intention behind this is to deter people from participating in flotillas in solidarity with the Palestinian people.”

Another video released by the campaign shows the ship’s engineer inspecting the damage. “I’ve never seen this kind of damage caused accidentally,” he says.

The campaign says that six of the twenty crew aboard the Saoirse will join the Italian/Dutch ship — “Fintan Lane, national coordinator of Irish Ship to Gaza and a member of the Free Gaza Movement; Trevor Hogan, former Ireland and Leinster rugby player; Paul Murphy, Socialist Party MEP for Dublin; Zoe Lawlor of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign; Hussein Hamed, a Libyan-born Irish citizen; and Gerry MacLochlainn, a Sinn Fein member of Derry City Council.”

Paul Murphy was interviewed last week by The Electronic Intifada. He told EI contributor David Cronin:

You’d have to be a bit crazy if you weren’t apprehensive [about sailing to Gaza], given what happened the last time. But being together here with most of the people who will be on the boat is good. There is a sense of solidarity.

We had a training weekend a couple of weeks ago, where we discussed what is likely to happen. We are as prepared as we can be for a potential assault. Whether that happens or not is in the hands of the Israeli state. It’s out of our hands. One of the ways of looking at it is: yes, we are putting ourselves in harm’s way. But 1.6 million people in Gaza are put in harm’s way on a daily basis.