Israeli commandos have been accused of abusing 14 Irish citizens, after they stormed a boat attempting to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza.
Two of the 14 Irish citizens awaiting court cases and deportation have revealed the full extent of the horrors they suffered at the hands of the Israeli military.
European Parliament member Paul Murphy and Irish effort co-ordinator Fintan Lane have described how they were hosed down under gun-point by commandos before they were transferred to an Israeli jail. Their boat, the MV Saoirse, was one of two attempting to breach the Israeli blockade of Gaza and deliver aid to Palestine when it was stopped and boarded in international waters by the Israelis
The Irish group were travelling as part of a two boat convoy to Gaza organised by the Freedom Wave humanitarian aid group.
Organizer Lane described how the Israeli forces surrounded the two ships before pointing guns through windows and turning high-pressure hoses on passengers.
“I was hosed down the stairs of the boat,” said Dr Lane. “Windows were smashed and the bridge of the boat nearly caught fire.
“The boats were corralled to such an extent that the two boats, the Saoirse and the Tahrir, collided with each other and were damaged, with most of the damage happening to the MV Saoirse.
“The boats nearly sank. The method used in the takeover was dangerous to human life.”
Dr Lane also revealed how the Israelis eventually agreed to tow the boats to shore, with $30,000 worth of medical aid on board, after initially attempting to abandon the vessels at sea.
MEP Murphy, in a statement released by the Socialist Party he represents in the European parliament, said that ‘those on board were shackled and deprived of all personal belongings’ before they were taken to jail.
He added: “In Givon prison the authorities tried to disorientate us through sleep deprivation and the removal of our watches and the prison clock recording the wrong time.
“We have been given no time-frame as to how long we will be kept there before the deportation trial. We were denied our right to contact our families within 24 hours of arrest.
“Following protests, our treatment improved and books and writing materials were returned.”
Murphy also revealed that the 14 Irish arrested, including former rugby international Trevor Hogan, refused to sign ‘confessions’ that they had entered Israeli territory illegally.
“We were arrested in international waters about 74km from Gaza,” he said.
The Irish group now expect to appear before an Israeli judge on Tuesday when they are likely to be deported along with the 13 prisoners from the second Canadian vessel.
Ireland’s Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore has condemned the Israeli action and instructed the Irish embassy to Tel Aviv to liaise with the prisoners.
Fianna Fáil leader and former Foreign Minister Micheál Martin said: “I salute the people who undertook this humanitarian mission to Gaza and their efforts to highlight the plight of the Palestinian people living there.
“Israel’s actions in boarding the vessel and detaining citizens are totally unacceptable.”