A confrontation between the Irish ship, MV Rachel Corrie, and the Israeli Navy seemed certain on Friday night as the crew refused a deal put forward by the Irish and Israeli governments.
The MV Rachel Corrie is expected to arrive in Gazan waters on Saturday morning.
The deal would have seen the boat diverted to the Israel port of Ashdod where the ship would be inspected and the aid delivered to Gaza through the Erez crossing. Two of the crew would have accompanied the aid shipment until it reached Gaza.
Mairead McGuire, the Irish Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who is on board the Rachel Corrie, said that it is their aim to break the siege on Gaza. She also said that the crew was not afraid and that Israel had, so far, made no attempts to contact the ship.
A statement from the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs said “This proposal was put to those on board the Rachel Corrie who, on Friday afternoon, after careful consideration and having thanked the government for its efforts, declined to accept it. I fully respect their right to do so and to continue their protest action by seeking to sail to Gaza."
The Government asked the Israeli Navy to exercise restraint if they board the ship. It said “Those on board the Rachel Corrie have made clear their peaceful intentions and have stated that they will offer no resistance to Israeli forces. Based on these assurances, there can be no justification for the use of force against any person on board the Rachel Corrie.”
“The Government has made clear that it believes that the Rachel Corrie should be allowed to proceed to Gaza and to unload its humanitarian cargo. Those on board the Rachel Corrie have indicated that they are ready to accept inspection of their cargo at sea, prior to docking in Gaza.”
"However, the Israeli government has stated that it is not willing to allow any breach of their naval blockade of Gaza."
Minister Michael Martin and the Department of Foreign Affairs also said that they were concerned for the crew’s safety as interaction with the Israeli Navy now seems inevitable. However, the Department also understands the crews desire to see their mission through.
“We are also conscious of the urgent need to address the humanitarian concerns of the people of Gaza,” said the statement.
Early on Friday Israel had said that they have “no interest in confronting” the Irish aid ship of its crew and asked that they sail directly to Ashdod port. The crew refused.
Foreign Ministry Director-General, Yossi Gal said “We have no interest in boarding the ship. If it sails directly to the Ashdod port, we will secure its crew and refrain from boarding it. Israel is prepared to receive the ship and unload its cargo. After it is checked to make sure it contains no weapons we will be prepared to transfer all of the goods to Gaza.”
McGuire, from on board the ship, said the crew would practice peaceful resistance. She said if the Israeli Navy boards the ship all of the crew will be on deck with only the clothes on their back and nothing else.
“We will sit down…They will probably arrest us ... But there will be no resistance," she said.