Palestine Solidarity Campaign calls on Foreign Secretary to demand Israel immediately release all flotilla participants and end the illegal siege of Gaza
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign today sent the following urgent letter to UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Dear Foreign Secretary,
Open letter re: ensuring safe passage of the 2018 International Freedom Flotilla and ending the illegal siege of Gaza
We write to you urgently to ask that you instruct the British Ambassador in Tel Aviv to demand Israel immediately releases all the detained participants of the Al-Awda ship, allows the vessel and its cargo safe passage to the port of Gaza and further, presses Israel to end its illegal siege of the Gaza Strip.
On Sunday, the Israeli navy unlawfully boarded and apprehended the Al-Awda (‘The Return’), in international waters. It was part of a Norwegian-flagged flotilla that was attempting to sail to Gaza, having set sail from Palermo in Italy on a humanitarian mission.
Its aim was to break the illegal blockade of Gaza that has been in place for over a decade, creating a dire humanitarian situation in the densely-populated territory. On board the ship were 22 volunteer human rights activists from around the world and a cargo of medical supplies urgently required by Gaza’s over-stretched health services. This civilian vessel posed no threat to Israel and should never have been intercepted, impeded or seized.
Two Israeli citizens (Yonatan Shapira and Zohar Chamberlain Regev) and two international Al Jazeera journalists have been released on bail, but 18 others have now spent their second night unlawfully detained in Givon Prison, Israel.
One of those still being detained by Israeli authorities is British citizen Dr Swee Ang, 69, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon. She was the first female orthopaedic consultant appointed to the St Bartholomew and the Royal London Hospitals, has worked for the United Nations in Gaza, the World Health Organisation in the West Bank and founded the British charity Medical Aid for Palestinians. We are deeply concerned for her safety amid reports that Israeli operatives used tasers on unarmed, peaceful crew members when they impounded the boat .
Dr Ang has described her reasons for joining the flotilla:
“It is now seventy years since the Palestinian Nakba and Diaspora in 1948. When will their journey home begin? Today, six million Palestinians dispersed in various refugee camps are denied the right of return to their ancestral Palestine; the other six million lived under occupation in Gaza and West Bank. For twelve years, two million Palestinians have been imprisoned under a brutal land and sea military blockade in Gaza. During this time there were three major military assaults where Gaza was relentlessly bombed for weeks.”
“Recently, since 30 March 2018, unarmed Gaza demonstrators calling for the right of return are shot at with high-grade military assault rifles leaving more than 124 dead and 13,000 severely wounded with hundreds of amputees and potential amputees. The flotilla brings hope to the besieged Palestinians. They are praying for us in their mosques and churches in the Gaza Strip. They know we are making this journey for them. Even if we are to be abducted, imprisoned and deported, may we remain faithful in solidarity and love for the people of Palestine and Gaza.”
Another boat in the flotilla – the yacht ‘Freedom’ – which also has a British citizen on board will be approaching Gaza in the next few days.
As Foreign Secretary, we call on you to urgently demand that Israel:
- Ensures the wellbeing of all participants of the flotilla and releases all members of the Al-Awda crew
- Allows the ships and their passengers safe and unhindered passage to the port of Gaza to deliver their much-needed medical cargo
- Immediately ends the illegal and inhumane siege of Gaza
Palestine Solidarity Campaign