Mike Treen’s message via YouTube. (Distorted audio – click on subtitles).
Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk
New Zealander Mike Treen, national director of the Unite Union and a veteran human rights defender, has made a dramatic plea for help from on board the international Freedom Flotilla to Gaza flagship Al Awda (The Return).
He pre-recorded this urgent SOS message in case of being hijacked by Israeli forces.
Treen pleaded for action early today over the illegal force reportedly by news media being used by the Israeli Navy.
His Kia Ora Gaza supporters also called on the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters, to demand the Israeli government immediately release flotilla participants and ensure their cargo of medical aid worth $15,000 is delivered to Gaza.
Al Jazeera reported that Israeli naval ships had surrounded the flotilla and communications had been cut.
The news channel said that some 16 countries were represented by the flotilla, including peace activists, parliamentarians and journalists.
Israeli Navy confirms stopping flotilla
The Times of Israel reported that the Israeli Navy had confirmed stopping a boat that was trying to break the maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip and had started to tow the vessel to the port in Ashdod.
Freedom Flotilla organisers said that the boat had been “hijacked” and “seized” and that the ship had earlier received a warning from the navy before the interception.
According to the flotilla, the navy had warned it would “take all necessary measures” if the boat, reportedly the Al Awda, did not adjust its course.
Earlier ‘blockade busting’ attempts
The voyage by the Al Awda was the latest in a series of bids aimed at busting the blokade and reaching Gaza, reports Al Jazeera.
In 2010, an attempt turned deadly when Israeli soldiers stormed the Turkish Mavi Marmara flotilla, killing 10 Turkish nationals.
And in 2015, a flotilla of four boats bound for Gaza was redirected to Ashdod.
It was only in 2008 that two boats carrying 40 people successfully managed to reach the coast of Gaza. At the time, Israel’s Foreign ministry said it had provided the flotilla with permission.
Earlier this month, Israel sealed off the Karam Shalom border crossing (known to Palestinians as Karem Abu Salem) – the primary passageway that transfers necessities to residents of Gaza, saying it was in retaliation over Palestinians setting fire to Israeli land.
The land, air, and naval blockade has led thousands in Gaza to protest near the fence with Israel in recent weeks. It also prompted residents to set sail from the coast of Gaza in May in a bid to break Israel’s imposed boundary.