Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Gaza Relief Ship Damaged In 'Encounter' (If That's What Being Repeatedly Rammed Is Called Now) With Israeli Military Vessel - CNN.com

Gaza relief boat damaged in encounter with Israeli vessel

(CNN) -- An Israeli patrol boat struck a boat carrying medical volunteers and supplies to Gaza early Tuesday as it attempted to intercept the vessel in the Mediterranean Sea, witnesses and Israeli officials said.

CNN Correspondent Karl Penhaul was aboard the 60-foot, Gibraltar-registered pleasure boat Dignity when the contact occurred. When the boat later docked in the Lebanese port city of Tyre, severe damage was visible to the forward port side of the boat, and the front left window and part of the roof had collapsed.

The Dignity was carrying crew and 16 passengers -- physicians from Britain, Germany and Cyprus and human rights activists, including former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney -- who were trying to reach Gaza through an Israeli blockade of the territory.

The captain of the Dignity said the Israelis broadcast a radio message accusing the vessel of being involved in terrorist activity. But Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor denied that and said the radio message simply warned the vessel not to proceed to Gaza because it is a closed military area.

Palmor said there was no response to the radio message, and the vessel then tried to out-maneuver the Israeli patrol boat, leading to the collision.

Penhaul said at least two Israeli patrol boats had shadowed the Dignity for about half an hour before the collision, moving around the vessel on all sides. One of the patrol boats then shined its spotlight on the Dignity while the other, with its lights off, "very severely rammed" the boat.

The captain of the Dignity told Penhaul he received no prior warning. Only after the collision did the Israelis come on the radio to say they struck the boat because they believed it was involved in terrorist activities. VideoWatch the chaos in Gaza and Israel »

The captain and crew said their vessel was struck intentionally, Penhaul said, but Palmor called those allegations "absurd."

"There is no intention on the part of the Israeli navy to ram anybody," Palmor said.

"I would call it ramming. Let's just call it as it is," McKinney said. "Our boat was rammed three times, twice in the front and one on the side."

In Full @ CNN

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