28 October, 2008 For Immediate Release
On October 28, 2008 as the sun was setting, 27 passengers on board the SS DIGNITY left for Gaza. It was the second attempt by the Free Gaza Movement to break Israel’s stranglehold on the 1.5 million civilians of Gaza. Although Israel threatened to stop the boat, arrest its passengers and tow the boat to Israel, they backed off at the last minute, perhaps fearing an international incident with a vessel, flying the flag of Gibraltar.
Yesterday, eleven human rights watchers went with the fishermen of Gaza to witness how the Israeli navy attacks them. After more than six hours of being machine gunned, sprayed with water cannons and watching the Israelis drop bombs into the water less than a meter away from many of the fishing boats, these passengers have come back to report on the brutality against the fishing industry in Gaza. They have both audio and video recordings of the attacks.
Now the DIGNITY is heading back to Cyprus and will arrive at sunrise (6:00 am) at the port in Larnaca on Sunday, November 2, 2008. We are bringing back a student who had been denied the right to study medicine in Belgium plus 23 of the original passengers, including Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mairead Maguire and Dr. Mustafa Barghouti.
Standing outside the gates of the port waiting to greet them will be dozens of Palestinian refugees from Iraq holding olive branches and signs. They stand there in support of this mission and to also tell the world that they want to go home… to Palestine. Many of them will be displaying the names of the villages and towns that were taken by the Israelis over the past 60 years.
All of the passengers, plus the Palestinians from Iraq will be available for interviews.
Contact: Greta Berlin, Cyprus: +357 99 08 17 67
Angela Godfrey Goldstein, Jerusalem: +972 547 366 393
Huwaida Arraf (on boat): +357 96 723 999 /SS Dignity: +357 967 80 329
Osama Qashoo, +447833381660
Mary Hughes, Cyprus +357 96 75 00 59
GazaFriends Arriving with the Sunrise
We were overjoyed when our boat, SS DIGNITY, landed safely at the port of Gaza this week. Yesterday some of our passengers accompanied five Gazan fishing boats as they ventured out within their own territorial water in Gaza hopes of making a good catch to provide food and income for their families.
While the Oslo agreement gave Gaza a 20 mile limit, the people of Gaza have never asked for more than the 12 miles which are standard under international law. After the elections in Palestine, Israel arbitrarily announced, as part of its blockade to punish Palestinians for democratically electing the wrong party, that it was cutting the limit to 6 miles.
Since our first Free Gaza boat landed in late August, internationals have often accompanied fishermen within their own territorial waters, Every day Israeli gunboats with nothing better to do, menace and attack at will, using live ammunition and high-powered cannons to damage or destroy these humble boats. One of our human rights observers and several Palestinians have been injured.
Yesterday we in Cyprus received repeated distress signals saying ‘help, help, help, help” from one of the boats which was under attack. When one of our colleagues in Israel called the Israeli military to protest, the response was “They have plenty of food; why do they need to go fishing?”
Thankfully the damaged fishing boat made it safely back to shore, and we have good audio and video coverage of the hours-long attack.
We are hoping to send the SS DIGNITY back to Gaza within the next two weeks.