Councillor Hugh Lewis participates in latest attempt to break the siege of Gaza

Following a call for international solidarity from 46 civil society organisations in Gaza, which include Teachers Associations, the Public Service Workers Union, the Health Service Workers Union, youth groups and rehabilitation centres, the Irish ship MV Saoirse and a Canadian ship MV Tahrir have set sail as part of an initiative called Freedom Waves to once more break the siege of Gaza.

The situation in Gaza is worsening. The humanitarian crisis is escalating daily with the continuing siege by the Israelis. As of 1 January 2012, approximately 600,000 refugees will not receive their three month food ration from the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) because as a result of the siege most people are dependent on aid relief from the UN agency.

The Freedom Flotilla which had attempted to sail in June was prevented from sailing from Greece by Israeli pressure. The Irish ship, the MV Saoirse, was sabotaged while docked in Turkey at the time but has since been repaired.

The boats, two civilian vessels, carrying 27 passengers from seven countries, are currently in international waters en route to Gaza.

People Before Profit Councillor Hugh Lewis (Ballybrack) is participating in this humanitarian and solidarity mission with Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphy, Sinn Fein representatives and others from civil society.

At 11.30am today the ships were 225 nautical miles from Gaza, 99 nautical miles w/sw of Cyprus and they expect to reach the port of Gaza sometime tomorrow if they are allowed to continue without interception by the Israelis.

The ships were followed for a time by the Turkish coastguard into International waters and of yet there has been no sign of or contact with the Israeli navy.

In a statement Richard Boyd Barrett TD said, “I want to commend the determination and bravery of the participants of Freedom Waves and the Freedom Movement for continuing their efforts to bring aid to the beleaguered and suffering people of Gaza and break the blockade of one and a half million innocent Palestinians”.

“It is a shocking indictment of the EU, the US and the International community that a cruel and barbaric siege continues to be inflicted by Israel, on a civilian population, causing immense suffering and hardship and that they continue to do nothing and allow Israel to act with impunity”.

“People like Hugh Lewis and the other participants in Freedom Wave have been forced to take their lives in their hands in response to the calls for assistance from the Palestinians in Gaza and the failure of governments and the international community to heed these calls”.

Richard Boyd Barrett said today, “I urge the Irish government and in particular Minister for Foreign Affairs, Eamon Gilmore who is a constituent colleague of Cllr. Hugh Lewis to demand that Israel allows free and safe passage to the MV Saoirse and other ships in Freedom Waves and demands further that Israel makes no violent or other attempt to intercept the Freedom Waves boats or harm any of the participants”.

The government must get off the fence and protect our citizens and the other participants who are doing nothing more than bringing humanitarian assistance and solidarity to suffering people.

Contact:

Richard Boyd Barrett , TD (PBPA) 086 7814520

Cllr. Brid Smith National Secretary People Before Profit 087 9090166

Cllr. Melisa Halpin ( Dun Laoghaire) 086 3805793