Irish aid boat holds course towards Gaza despite Israel warning

The final boat in the Gaza aid flotilla was sailing at full speed towards the territory’s coast tonight despite warnings that it would be intercepted by Israeli forces.

The MV Rachel Corrie, a 40-year-old cargo ship bought by the Irish arm of the Free Gaza Movement, was delayed and avoided capture during Monday night’s assault. Tonight it was still in international waters about two days from Gaza, carrying a consignment of aid and 19 activists and crew, among them five Irish nationals, the organisation said.

The Irish taoiseach, Brian Cowen, warned Israel tonight that he expected no violence against those on the Rachel Corrie.

“If any harm comes to any of our citizens it will have the most serious consequences,” he said, calling on Israel to guarantee the vessel safe passage through the military blockade of Gaza.

The ship, named after the 23-year-old American killed in Gaza in 2003 while trying to prevent an Israeli bulldozer demolishing a Palestinian home, had halted in the Mediterranean following the assault while those on board – among them the Nobel peace laureate Máiread Maguire and Denis Halliday, a retired senior UN diplomat – discussed whether they should continue.

It was now carrying as a “second wave” of the flotilla, said Niamh Moloughney, who organised the sailing in Ireland.

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