The Free Gaza Movement was on Wednesday preparing to send more aid ships to Gaza, amid claims that Israel may have sabotaged the aid flotilla, one of the founders of the pro-Palestinian movement told DPA.

The Irish cargo-ship MV “Rachel Corrie” could reach Gaza within two weeks, said Greta Berlin. Among the activists on board was Irish Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire as well as former UB assistant secretary-general Dennis Halliday.

Ms. Berlin refused to give the exact position of the vessel as she said the movement suspected Israel had been trying to sabotage the aid flotilla bound for Gaza.

The “Rachel Corrie” had been set to join the convoy headed by the Turkish Marvi Marmara but had suffered sudden damage, forcing it to interrupt its voyage at Cyprus. Another two vessels, the Challenger I and Challenger II had also malfunctioned suddenly, Ms. Berlin said.

Inspections of the ships had shown that the electric wires may have been tampered with, Ms. Berlin said, adding they were still awaiting the results of a full investigation.

The rest of the convoy headed by the Marvi Marmara was on Monday forcefully intercepted by Israel. Nine activists were killed when Israeli soldiers stormed the boats, prompting a wave of international outrage against Israel’s operation.

Four of the dead have so far been identified as Turks, Turkish officials said on Wednesday.

Ms. Berlin’s remarks followed comments by Israeli Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai on Israel Radio, clearly hinting Israel took covert action to sabotage the convoy.

Asked whether there had been alternatives to an assault, Mr. Vilnai said, “All possibilities had been considered”, adding: “The fact is that there were fewer than the 10 ships that were supposed to participate in the flotilla.”

The Irish cargo ship is loaded with 1,200 tons of aid earmarked for Gaza, including 560 tonnes of cement, 100 tonnes of medical equipment among them CAT scanners, a dental office and 200 electric and regular wheelchairs, as well as papers, sports gear and crayons for children.

“We’re determined to continue with sending boats to Gaza,” Ms. Berlin said.

She rejected Israel’s charges that the activists on board the Mavi Marmara had initiated the violence by attacking the Israeli commandos landing on deck from helicopters with iron rods, chairs and knives.

The Israelis had started to shoot into the crowd for no justifiable reasons, she said.

“And for anyone to be so awful as to says that some sticks are a match for machine guns, stun guns, teargas cannisters and a heavily armed Israeli militia that’s boarding our ships in international waters has a serious issue with who is the real terrorist,” she said.

Israel on Wednesday released 449 of the some 600 foreign activists who had been on board the Gaza aid flotilla and were subsequently detained by Israel in a prison in the south of the country, a spokeswoman for Israel Prison Service told DPA.

They included 123 nationals from Arab states, among Jordanians and Kuwaitis, who were taken to Israel’s Allenby border crossing over the River Jordan with Israel’s eastern neighbour over night.

The rest were taken to Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv for deportation abroad, most of them Turks.

Israel also said it dispatched 10 truckloads of the aid on board the flotilla to the Kerem Shalom crossing point for transportation into Gaza over land, including medical equipment, wheel chairs, and some food, Major Guy Inbar told DPA.

More In: International | News