There could be concessions from Israel on the Gaza Strip aid
blockade, Channel 4 News International Editor Lindsey Hilsum reports
from Ashdod, as it faces more international pressure after stopping
another aid ship.

The Israeli navy diverted the Rachel Corrie – the last of the so-called “freedom flotilla
“ containing thousands of tonnes of aid for Gaza, as well as activists
from Ireland and elsewhere – without incident.  

The ship, named after the American woman killed in Gaza in 2003, had ignored Israeli
orders to divert to Israel’s Ashdod port where Israel had offered to unload
the cargo and deliver it to Gaza before inspecting it.

However, following the Israeli military intervention, it was escorted to
Ashdod where the cargo was unloaded and the passengers were
put onto buses to the airport to be deported.

The Rachel Corrie continued with its mission despite Israeli forces killing
nine activists on board a Turkish aid ship
on Monday.  

Lindsey Hilsum, Channel 4 News International
, said that Israelis continued to support the blockade,
despite the aid crisis in Gaza and international condemnation – although
some alterations could be made to what kinds of items are blocked as a
result of recent events, she said.

“Most Israelis seem to agree with their government that the blockade
of Gaza is necessary in order to weaken the Hamas government in Gaza
and prevent it from getting weapons,” she said.

“But international reaction is now stepping up – with the White House
saying that it is unsustainable, it has to change.

“But nonethless Israel seems quite determined…they think that if the
blockade is lifted, there is a danger of weapons going into Gaza, that at
least is what they say.

“But I think now there will be new
negotiations to change at least what can go in and what can’t. There is
an Israeli list of goods which are allowed in and which aren’t. Rather
bizarrely, coriander is not allowed in, ginger however is allowed


The humanitarian cargo on board the Rachel Corrie

550,000 kilograms of bagged cement
20,000 Kgs of printing paper
25,000 kgs of school supplies and
12,000 kgs of toys
150,000 kgs of medical supplies

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement
saying: “Forces used the same procedures for Monday’s flotilla and
Saturday’s sailing but was met by a different response.

today’s ship and in five of the six vessels in the previous flotilla,
procedure ended without casualties. The only difference was with one
ship where extremist Islamic activists, supporters of terrorism, waited for
our troops on the deck with axes and knives.”


Passengers on board the MV Rachel Corrie include:

Mairead Maguire, nobel Peace Laureate and Cofunder of
Peace People, Northern Ireland.
Dennis Halliday, former UN
Assistant Secretary General, nobel peace prize nominee, and winner of
the UK Gandhi Peace Prize.
Matthias Change Wen chieh, Malaysia
barrister and former political secretary to former Malaysian Prime Minister
Dr. Mahathir Mohammed.

The ship was the latest attempt to break the four-year old blockade
imposed on Gaza by Israel, with the stated aim of preventing Gaza’s
rulers Hamas from building up weapons to attack the Jewish state.    

It prevents materials such as cement from entering Gaza, which it
says could be used for military purposes.

The latest incident comes after nine Turkish activists
attempting to break the blockade were killed by Israeli military on

The Guardian newspaper
reported today that autopsy results showed they had been shot a
total of 30 times, many at close range. Five were killed by gunshots to the
head, it said.

Speaking to Channel 4 News, Chris Gunness, UN
Relief and Works Agency spokesman, said that the key issue was that
people in Gaza were absolutely desperate for aid.

“We have to
get aid into Gaza. There is 80% aid dependency and 44%
unemployment. Last year 100,000 people came to us because they could
not feed their families, this year it was 300,000 so deep poverty has gone
up three times,” he said.

“There’s a crisis in the health service in Gaza, there’s a crisis in the
education service in Gaza,” he said.

“Thousands of five and six year olds can’t go to UN schools today
because of this illegal blockade, this collective punishment of 1.5 million
people, which is why we say lift the sea blockade, lift the land blockade.
We know we can do it and do it in a way which adequately
accommodates Israel’s legitimate security concerns.”

He also said that his organisation had been working with Israeli
authorities to get cement into Gaza, which showed that it could be done.

“If we can do it for two months, we can do it for two years. If we can do
it for a few trucks, we can do it for a few tens of thousands of trucks,” he

International criticism has been heaped on the blockade following the
incidents this week, including by Israel’s ally the United States.

A spokesman for the White House National Security Council said:
“We are working urgently with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and other
international partners to develop new procedures for delivering more
goods and assistance to Gaza.

“The current arrangements are unsustainable and must be changed.
For now, we call on all parties to join us in encouraging responsible
decisions by all sides to avoid any unnecessary confrontations.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay increased the

“International humanitarian law prohibits starvation of civilians as a
method of warfare and … it is also prohibited to impose collective
punishment on civilians,” she said.

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