Published: Tuesday June 1, 2010 MYT 10:52:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday June 1, 2010 MYT 8:41:17 PM
Aid ship Rachel Corrie, with 6 M’sians, presses on to Gaza (Updated)
* Israeli Navy ready to stop the 3 ships
* Israel detains 480 captured, deports 48
* Najib wants status of 11 captured Malaysians ascertained
* Pakatan wants emergency Parliament sitting to condemn Israel
KUALA LUMPUR: The humanitarian aid ship Rachel Corrie, which has six Malaysians on board, is pressing ahead in rough seas to breach the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
Two other ships are also going ahead to deliver aid despite fresh news reports on Tuesday that the Israeli Navy was standing ready to intercept the ships.
"The ships will proceed until they are stopped. If they are stopped, they will appeal for safe passage. After all, they are carrying humanitarian aid," said former Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in an interview on Al Jazeera television.
"They are risking much to fulfil their undertaking to deliver aid to Gaza," he said in the 1.15pm interview on Tuesday. Dr Mahathir heads the NGO Perdana Global Peace Organisation which is one of the sponsors of the aid being carried in Rachel Corrie.
He said that the Rachel Corrie and the other two aid ships were not part of the six-ship flotilla captured by Israelis on Monday because mechanical difficulties had delayed their set off.
Early Monday, Israeli commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish ship leading a flotilla of six aid ships heading for Gaza, saying that the ship carried passengers with terrorist links.
At least 10 people were killed in that raid, triggering international outrage and condemnation.
The Mavi Marmara was 65 km off Gaza in international waters. News reports say that all six ships in the flotilla are now in the Israeli port of Ashdod and the passengers and crew in custody.
Dr Mahathir dismissed Israeli allegations that passengers on the captured ships had Hamas links. Hamas rules Gaza and Israel has deemed it a terrorist group.
"What Hamas links? These are people without Hamas links, They are just people who are aware of the extent of the Palestinian suffering," he said.
Earlier in the day, Dr Mahathir's secretary Sufi Yusoff told Star Online that he had contacted veteran journalist Shamsul Akmar on board the Rachel Corrie by satellite phone at 10am.
According to Shamsul the ship was about 300km from Gaza and the rough seas meant that it would be about 48 hours before it could reach Gaza.
The rough seas made it difficult to predict when they would reach Gaza, Sufi said, adding that the small ship had a total of 19 people on board - six Malaysians, five Irish and eight crew.
“We would like to emphasise that this is a totally humanitarian exercise. There are no terrorist elements on board. The Israelis have no reason to attack this ship,” he said.
Aside from veteran journalist Shamsul, the other Malaysians are lawyer Matthias Chang, Parit MP Nizar Zakaria, activist Ahmad Faizal Azumu and TV3 crew members Halim Mohamed and Jufri Junid.
Among the Irish are Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire and former UN Assistant Secretary-General Denis Halliday.
"These are hardly terrorist elements. The Israelis can have no excuse to raid the Rachel Corrie," Sufi said.
The Rachel Corrie, an 1,200-ton Irish-owned cargo ship, is loaded with reconstruction, medical and educational supplies sponsored by the peoples of Malaysia, Ireland, Scotland, and Britain.
The vessel was to have been part of the flotilla but was delayed because of mechanical problems and only left Malta on May 30.
According to NGO Free Gaza, Israel has limited essential fuel to run the power station in the past three months and much of Gaza was often in darkness.
There were just enough trucks coming in to barely prevent total starvation, and Egypt, complicit with the Israeli-US policy of blockading Palestinians, was building an underground steel wall to prevent people in Gaza from bringing in vitally needed supplies through tunnels, it said.
About 1.5 million Palestinians were trapped in the ‘open-air prison’, it said.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak instructed Wisma Putra to get the latest status on the fate of the 11 Malaysian volunteers in the captured aid ships.
Israeli military censors have jammed communication lines making it impossible to contact the injured and other passengers on the Mavi Marmara and the other five ships now in Ashdod.
Meanwhile, Israeli public radio reported Tuesday noon that Israel had detained 480 pro-Palestinian activists captured in the Mavi Marmara and would deport 48 others.
The detained were being held at a prison in Ashdod. Those slotted for deportation were being taken to Ben Gurion international airport, said the report.
Meanwhile, Pakatan Rakyat has called on Najib to convene an emergency Parliament sitting to condemn Israel and want the Government to come up with a plan to rescue the captured Malaysians in 48 hours.
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