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JPost - Foreign Ministry denies Irish claim of flotilla sabotage

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  • Paul
    JPost - Sat, Jul 2, 2011 The Jerusalem Post Foreign Ministry denies Irish claim of flotilla sabotage By HERB KEINON, REUTERS AND JPOST.COM STAFF 07/02/2011
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 2, 2011
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      JPost - Sat, Jul 2, 2011
      The Jerusalem Post
      Foreign Ministry denies Irish claim of flotilla sabotage
      07/02/2011 13:14


      Irish activists say Israel sabotaged their ship; gov't in Athens
      prohibits vessels with Greek, foreign flags from departing from Greece
      to Gaza; US boat 'Audacity of Hope' turned back shortly after embarking.

      Israel was not behind the engine damage caused to an Irish ship
      participating in the Gaza-bound flotilla, Foreign Ministry officials
      said on Saturday. The foreign ministry added that activists must feel
      they are in a "James Bond film."

      Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News reported Friday that the damage
      caused to the Irish ship might not be a result of sabotage at all.
      According to the report, investigations have also revealed that the ship
      was damaged before it entered Turkish waters.

      Last week, Saoirse, one of ten ships set to sail in the mass movement to
      break the Gaza sea blockade, was docked in Turkish waters when it
      sustained engine damage. Fintan Lane, coordinator of the Irish Ship to
      Gaza organization, called the act "dangerous sabotage" and said the ship
      he believed divers had worked underwater to cut a piece of the propeller

      The damage sustained by the Irish liner caused organizers to pull the
      vessel out the flotilla.

      The controversy surrounding the Saoirse is only the latest in a number
      of developments that have caused the new flotilla difficulty in setting

      On Friday, the Greek Ministry of Citizen Protection issued a statement
      saying that the Minister, C. Papoutsis, decided to prohibit the
      departure of ships flying either Greek or foreign flags "to the maritime
      area" of Gaza.

      "By orders of the Hellenic Coast Guard Head Quarters to all local
      Hellenic Coast Guard Authorities, all appropriate measures are taken for
      the implementation of the said decision," the statement said.

      The Greek ministry said that the "broader maritime area of eastern
      Mediterranean will be continuously monitored by electronic means for
      tracking, where applicable, the movements of the ships allegedly
      participating" in the Gaza flotilla.

      While Cyprus had already banned ships headed for Gaza from leaving their
      ports, the Greeks had not taken this measure until Friday.

      The Greek Coast Guard intercepted a boat carrying US activists soon
      after they set sail from Greece on Friday to join a pro-Palestinian
      flotilla to Gaza, one of the activists said.

      Late Friday evening, the US boat slated to participate in the Gaza
      flotilla, The Audacity of Hope, turned back to a Greek port after it was
      intercepted by Greek commandos Friday evening, organizers said through
      their Twitter feed. The boat was brought under Coast Guard escort to a
      closed Coast Guard base in Greece.

      The boat had just left Perama port, near Piraeus, for the open seas, a
      Reuters witness said.

      Minutes before initially being intercepted, organizers said that the
      ship's passengers were preparing to "non-violently resist any efforts to
      stop the boat," saying moments later that the boat "is about to set
      sail," followed by a message saying that the ship had departed. Through
      the boat's twitter feed, organizers said that a Greek Coast Guard vessel
      approached The Audacity of Hope as it was pulling away from the dock but
      then sped away.

      A flotilla of boats planning to challenge Israel's naval blockade of the
      Gaza Strip is expected to sail next week, after repeated delays that
      activists blame on Israeli sabotage. Israel has denied the accusations.

      "We are just here, two miles off Piraeus. We've been stopped by the
      coastguard, their ship maneuvered in front of us and they are now
      talking to the captain, they want us to turn around," Ann Wright, one of
      the activists, told Reuters.

      "We are non-violent, we pose no threat," she added, saying that the
      group was informed of the sailing ban just as it was setting off.

      It was not immediately clear how the boat's departure would affect the
      overall flotilla plans.
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