Irish Gaza activists return home

 

The remaining nine Irish activists, detained after they had tried to breach Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza, returned to Ireland today.

The remaining nine Irish activists, detained after they had tried to breach Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza, returned to Ireland today.

Two arrived on a Turkish Airways flight from Istanbul shortly after noon while seven arrived at about 4 pm from London.

Five of the 14 had arrived on Thursday evening on a Lufthansa flight, having also not been able to make a British Airways flight on which they had been booked, to arrive back on Wednesday.

Co-ordinator of the Irish Ship to Gaza campaign, Fintan Lane and Limerick University lecturer, Zoe Lawlor, arrived from Turkey.

“We took the flight to Turkey when it was clear, after we’d been prevented from getting on a flight from by the Israelis for the third time, that we weren’t going to get a flight,” said Mr Lane.

</p> <p>The Irish embassy in Tel Aviv has lodged two “firm protests” with the Israeli authorities over the treatment of Irish activists who missed two flights on to which they had been booked, due to what Israeli authorities described as “security issues”.</p> <p>“There seemed to be a deliberate attempt to keep us in Israel,” said Mr Lane. There was no legal basis to keeping us for so long.” The Israeli navy intercepted the Irish MV Saoirse and the Canadian vessel MV Al-Tahrir after captains refused Israeli navy orders to turn back last Friday.</p> <p>They had been sailing to Gaza. The 14 Irish nationals aboard were all arrested, were among 27 activists from seven countries.</p> <p>All were arrested in international waters and brought to Ashdod port before being transferred to Givon Detention Centre last Saturday.</p> <p>They were held there until Wednesday when they were transferred to Tel Aviv and were due to fly out of Israel that morning, then again on Thursday and finally flew home, via Istanbul or London, yesterday.</p> <p>Ms Lawlor described the Israeli authorities' treatment of her and her fellow activists as “obnoxious”, adding however, “it was nothing to what the people of Gaza must endure”. Both said the experience would not deter them attempting to reach Gaza by sea again in the future.</p> <p>Their vessel was seized and is in the possession of the Israeli authorities. A spokesman for the Israeli government described the “whole episode” as a “mere provocation” designed for the benefit of the activists.</p>