Israel warns Gaza-bound 'Rachel Corrie' to stop

Israel yesterday served notice that an Irish pro-Palestinian aid ship would not be allowed to fulfil its goal of reaching the Gaza coast this morning. The Rachel Corrie was last night pressing on towards the enclave, following the original flotilla that was halted by Israeli commandos at the cost of nine lives on Monday.

Israel issued a last-minute public appeal to the vessel, carrying 1,000 tons of aid supplies and 11 passengers, including the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire, to dock instead at the Israeli port of Ashdod. "There is a maritime blockade on Gaza," Yossi Gal, the director general of the Foreign Ministry, told reporters here yesterday. Mr Gal said that if the ship wen to Ashdod it would not be boarded and the cargo would be transferred to Gaza once it had been inspected to ensure that there were no weapons on board.

But Ms Maguire made it clear yesterday that the ship would continue on its course, stressing that activists would not resist Israeli forces if they boarded.

She told The Independent yesterday afternoon: "We are 150 miles off the coast of Gaza, heading straight in the direction of Gaza and we hope to be there tomorrow morning by 9 o'clock. Everybody is fine and totally united in our desire to take the cargo boat to Gaza."

The Nobel Prize winner said the cargo had been inspected by officials in Ireland before it left and the hull had since been sealed. "We are carrying just humanitarian aid," Ms Maguire said. "We have said if someone from the UN wishes to come forward and inspect the cargo then we would be open to that, but we want then to sail forward into Gaza with our aid.

Israeli officials have indicated they are not expecting any repeat of the violence which erupted on the Turkish Mavi Marmara passenger ship on Monday when naval commandos opened fire, killing nine. Israel says they did so only after what they described as an onslaught by a hard core of extremists who attacked the troops with knives, metal rods and two pistols snatched from the commandos.

Violent attacks on the first troops to arrive on the upper deck are borne out on videos released by the Israeli military and Turkish TV. But IHH, the Turkish group which helped to fund and organise the flotilla, and was outlawed by Israel in 2008 for its alleged ties with Hamas, has denied that passengers fired on the commandos.

Yedhiot Ahronot, Israel's largest selling newspaper, reported yesterday that the Israeli military had also taken possession of footage showing peaceful activists trying to prevent violent fellow-passengers from attacking the soldiers. The paper said that one of the passengers, apparently an Arab, is seen holding a club and seeking to fend off the assault on the troops. An Israeli military spokesman could not confirm existence of the tapes yesterday.

The Rachel Corrie was supposed to be part of the orginal flotilla but had returned to Ireland a week ago after developing a propeller fault which the Free Gaza movement, one of the flotilla's organizers had suggested was the result of sabotage.

That possibility was reinforced this week when Colonel Itzik Turgeman, a senior IDF officer hinted to the Knesset's Foreign Affairs Committee that some of the vessels – though not the Mavi Marmara –had been tampered with to halt them far from the Gaza or Israeli coast.

But Israeli ministers have began considering steps to ease the three-year embargo on Gaza, which has aroused a new wave of international criticism in the wake of Monday's raid. Amid signs that US officials are becoming impatient with Israel's policy towards Gaza, President Barack Obama stressed his understanding of Israel's security concerns, but added: "On the other hand, you've got a blockage up that is preventing people in Palestinian Gaza from having job opportunities and being able to create businesses and engage in trade and have opportunity for the future."

He also predicted that Israel would agree to an "effective" investigation "of international standards". Although some ministers support an investigation, Defence Minister Ehud Barak has been resisting.

Israel's economic relationship with Turkey has been severely threatened. Taner Yildiz, Turkey's minister of energy and natural resources, has said there will be no new energy or water projects with Israel until relations between the two countries improve.

VIDEO
News
Strange 'quack' noises could be undersea chatter of Minke whales
science
Voices
voices Furore is yet another example of shameful Westminster evasion, says Nigel Farage
News
weird news... and film it, obviously
News
peopleThis time as he’s awarded the Freedom of Stirling and handed an honorary degree
Arts & Entertainment
tv
Sport
sport
News
Matthew Mcnulty and Jessica Brown Findlay in 'Jamaica Inn'
mediaHundreds complain over dialogue levels in period drama
Voices
voicesMoyes' tragedy is one the Deputy PM understands all too well, says Matthew Norman
News
peopleJay Z and Beyoncé to buy £5.5m London townhouse
Voices
voicesMoyes' tragedy is one the Deputy PM understands all too well, says Matthew Norman
Arts & Entertainment
Rocker of ages: Chuck Berry
musicWhy do musicians play into old age?
News
Jilly's jewels: gardener Alan Titchmarsh
peopleCountry Life magazine's list of 'gallant' public figures throws light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
Sport
John Terry goes down injured in the 70th minute
sportAtletico Madrid 0 Chelsea 0: Blues can finish the job at Stamford Bridge, but injuries to Terry and Cech are a concern for Mourinho
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor Needed Nottingham/Derbyshire

£3360 - £16800 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: Cover Supervisor requ...

English Teacher

£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: Urgently Required. En...

Supply teachers needed in Cambridgeshire

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad are looking ...

Geography Teacher

£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: We are currently recr...

Day In a Page

Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home

It's not always fun in the sun: Moving abroad does not guarantee happiness

Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home
Migrants in Britain a decade on: They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire

Migrants in Britain a decade on

They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire
Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

The 'Thick of It' favourite thinks the romcom is an 'awful genre'. So why is he happy with a starring role in Sky Living's new Lake District-set series 'Trying Again'?
Why musicians play into their old age

Why musicians play into their old age

Nick Hasted looks at how they are driven by a burning desire to keep on entertaining fans despite risking ridicule
How can you tell a gentleman?

How can you tell a gentleman?

A list of public figures with gallant attributes by Country Life magazine throws a fascinating light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

The duo behind Asos and Achica have launched a new venture offering haute couture to help make furry companions fashionable
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire
Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

Celebrate St George’s Day with a nice cup of tea. Now you just need to get the water boiled
Sam Wallace: Why Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term

Sam Wallace

Why Ryan Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term
Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

Having smashed Sergei Bubka's 21-year-old record, the French phenomenon tells Simon Turnbull he can go higher
Through the screen: British Pathé opens its archives

Through the screen

British Pathé opens its archives
The man behind the papier mâché mask

Frank Sidebottom

The man behind the papier mâché mask
Chris Marker: Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

Chris Marker retrospective is a revelation
Boston runs again: Thousands take to the streets for marathon as city honours dead and injured of last year's bombing

Boston runs again

Thousands of runners take to the streets as city honours dead of last year
40 years of fostering and still holding the babies (and with no plans to retire)

40 years of fostering and holding the babies

In their seventies and still working as specialist foster parents