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Monday 20 March 2023 Dublin: 11°C
Israeli Defences Forces/AP Photo This image released by the Israeli Defence Ministry shows Israeli soldiers boarding one of the protest boats.
# Gaza
Gaza activists set to return to Ireland after Israeli detention ends
Arrangements are being made for the 14 Irish activists who were on a solidarity mission to the Gaza Strip to return home.

AUTHORITIES ARE MAKING preparations to send the 14 Irish activists held in Israel back to Ireland after a 72-hour period of detention ran out overnight.

The 14 Irish activists, including former Fianna Fáil TD Chris Andrews, are being held at Givon prison in the city of Ramla after the Israeli Navy boarded their ship, the MV Saoirse, which was sailing on a solidarity mission to Gaza along with another Canadian ship, the MV Tahrir, last week.

The pro-Palestinian activists claimed they were travelling in international waters on an aid mission to the blockaded-Gaza Strip. Israel claims that the activists were in Israeli waters and that the blockade is legal as was found in a UN report last month.

A spokesperson for the Irish Ship to Gaza movement said that the ship was “hijacked” by members of the Israeli Navy who held the activists “at gunpoint”.

Both the MV Saoirse, which was carrying no aid, and the MV Tahrir, which was reportedly carrying medical supplies, had a total of 27 activists on board, all of whom were taken into Israeli custody and brought to Ashdod port in Israel.

“Unlike what the Israeli side is reporting that it was a peaceful handover, it wasn’t. Our passengers made it very clear they had no intention of leaving the boat. They were taken at gun point, guns were pointed at them and windows were smashed on the MV Saoirse,” Claudia Saba from the Irish Ship to Gaza claimed.

‘Illegitimate’ protest

A spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Ireland told that it was “normal procedure” that navy officers are armed for self-defence when boarding a ship.

He said that the boats had been guided to Ashdod where an Irish consular representative arrived and convinced the activists to disembark the ship.

“The Irish ambassador to Israel has seen them every day they have been there and says they are not being mistreated,” he added, describing the protests of those aboard the flotilla as “illegitimate”.

After disembarking the ship, the activists were taken to Govan prison in the city of Ramla where they have been held over the weekend.

Most of the activists refused to sign deportation orders, saying they contained false statements meaning they could not be sent home until a 72-hour period expired.

Now that it has the Israeli authorities are making arrangements to send the activists back to their home countries either tonight or tomorrow morning. The cost of this will be borne by Israel.

The Israeli embassy in Dublin said that six of the 27 activists had signed the deportation orders and had gone home. The Irish Ship to Gaza movement confirmed this and said that none of those deported were Irish.

It also claimed that the whereabouts of  British journalist, Hassan Ghani of PressTV are unknown.

Government response

A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs told

We’ve been providing consular assistnace, visiting every day and keeping in touch with families. We have no cause for concern for any of the activists’ treatment by authorities.

“For any issues raised by detainees, our consular official would have raised those with the authorities there and any issues raised were dealt with,” the spokeswoman added.

Fianna Fáil issued a statement yesterday in which leader Micheál Martin, a former Minister for Foreign Affairs, condemned the actions of the Israeli Defence Forces:

There is no justification for what has been happening over the last week.

“I have spoken directly to the Israeli Ambassador today and made clear to him my view that while we respect Israel and its efforts to protect its citizens, this latest attack on a legitimate protest is unjustifiable,” he said.

Read: Irish detained from Gaza-bound boats to be deported from Israel >

Read: Gaza activists make contact from Israeli prison calling incident “violent and dangerous” >

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