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Irish Gaza flotilla members head home while Turkish police question boat ‘sabotage’

The remaining members of the Irish crew are returning to Ireland. Meanwhile Turkish police have said that damage done to boats may not have been sabotage, but Irish Ship to Gaza says that can’t taken ‘at face value’.

The Audacity of Hope is escorted by the Greek coast guard ship in the town of Perama, near Athens yesterday
The Audacity of Hope is escorted by the Greek coast guard ship in the town of Perama, near Athens yesterday
Image: AP Photo/Darko Bandic

Updated 6.45pm

ISRAEL HAS AGAIN denied claims it sabotaged ships trying to breach its sea blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The Irish Ship to Gaza group claimed that the Irish ship the MV Saoirse was damaged earlier this week while it was docked in the Turkish port of Gocek. Another boat moored in the Greek town of Piraeus was also damaged.

The boats are part of a flotilla attempting to reach the Palestinian territory. Efforts were further stalled yesterday when Greece prevented ships from sailing.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor has again dismissed the sabotage charges as “ridiculous,” calling them “sad conspiracy theories.” Palmor had previously said that the activists should “come out of the film world and start getting real. This is not Hollywood and Israel is not the bad guy”.

Meanwhile Turkish police have said that the upon initial inspection it appears that the damage to the MV Saoirse was done before it docked in Gocek. Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reports that “the breakdown of the ship might not have been a result of sabotage”.

The Irish Ship to Gaza Group has said that the Turkish investigation cannot be taken at face value. In a statement today the group said that it has “very strong doubts regarding a report published in the Turkish press”. Spokesperson Laurence Davis said:

It is important to remember that Turkey and Israel, under the watchful eye of the United States, are currently attempting to heal the rift created when Israel ordered an attack on last year’s Freedom Flotilla, killing eight Turks and one Turkish-American. These diplomatic manoeuvres cast doubt on the impartiality of both the Turkish investigation into the apparent sabotage of the Irish ship MV Saoirse, and the forthcoming ‘Palmer Report’, commissioned by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to investigate the events surrounding the attack on last year’s Gaza Flotilla.

The group says that it is “beyond coincidence” that both the MV Saoirse and the Juliano suffered almost identical damage. The group provided photos of what it says is sabotage:

A spokesperson for the Irish Ship to Gaza group has also told TheJournal.ie that the remaining members of the Irish crew have now decided to return to Ireland in the wake of the Greek ban on the boats leaving for Gaza.

Greek authorities have arrested the captain of the American boat The Audacity of Hope. The 60-year-old is being held at Piraeus police headquarters and while remain there until a court hearing on Tuesday.

Greece’s coast guard said the captain of the “Audacity of Hope” faces charges of trying to leave port without permission and of endangering the lives of the boat’s passengers. The latter charge is a felony.

The “Audacity of Hope” was carrying 36 passengers, four crew and about 10 members of the media. Its attempt to sail on Friday night from the port of Perama, near Athens, was thwarted by coast guard speedboats.

- Additional reporting by AP

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Emer McLysaght

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