'Second sabotage' of Gaza-bound flotilla

Activists on Irish ship in Turkey bound for Gaza Strip claim Israel behind sabotage of vessel's propeller.

    Ten ships flagged under at least seven different countries comprise the 'Freedom Flotilla II'  [Reuters]

    Activists on board an Irish ship that was set to participate in a planned flotilla to Gaza have said their propeller was sabotaged and could have caused the ship to sink if it had remained undiscovered.

    Fintan Lane, a co-ordinator on board the Saoirse, said in a video posted on the ship's blog that he believed Israel was behind the damage, which he labelled an act of "terrorism".

    The damage means the Saoirse will not be able to join the flotilla, the blog said.

    "If this boat would've gone to sea, it's almost certain we would've lost lives, this boat would've sank," Lane said.

    "It's an absolute outrage that Israel talks about the flotilla as a provocation when they're willing to engage in this type of international terrorism."

    The Saoirse has been docked in Gocek, a town on Turkey's southern coast, as it waits to join nine other ships in what has been called the "Freedom Flotilla II," the second effort in as many years to sail medicine, food, supplies and letters through Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.

    The first flotilla ended in disaster in May 2010, when Israeli commandos launched a predawn raid on the Mavi Marmara, a converted cruise ship, and killed nine passengers.

    The Saoirse's crew had taken the ship on a test run and refuelling trip on Monday when the engineer noticed that something was wrong, the blog said.

    When the crew returned to Gocek, they discovered that the propeller shaft had been cut and "dangerously bent". News of the alleged sabotage only emerged on Thursday.

    Though the Saoirse will not be able to join the flotilla, the Irish activists on board are attempting to find space on other ships, the blog said.

    Similar 'sabotage'

    The damage to the propeller seemed to take place around the same time as a similar incident in the Greek port of Piraeus.

    There, Swedish activists on board the Juliano said on Tuesday that "hostile divers" had destroyed the propeller house and cut the propeller shaft.

    Flotilla organisers said the Juliano, unlike the Saoirse, would be ready to sail in one or two days after being repaired.

    "We will not be frightened by Israel, and we are going to continue. Our friends from all around the world are with us, and we are all going to Gaza," organiser Dror Feiler told Al Jazeera.

    Israel has waged a public information campaign aimed at dissuading journalists and activists from participating in the flotilla but has denied sabotaging the ships.    

    SOURCE: Agencies


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