Passengers on the Gaza bound MV Rachel Corrie have released smuggled footage showing attempts crew members made to avoid contact with Israeli soldiers just moments before commandos boarded the ship eight days ago.
The film, which was smuggled out of Israel by filmmaker and passenger Fiona Thompson, captures ongoing conversations about the delivery of humanitarian cargo before the ship was finally taken over.
The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) continually refused to address the Irish aid vessel as the MV Rachel Corrie – named after an American activist killed in Gaza – instead using its original name the MV Linda.
"It was a complete outright refusal to acknowledge the name of the boat," said first mate Derek Graham who negotiated with the warships that shadowed their vessel.
"They had their research done to know it was called the MV Linda before we renamed it."
In the hours before the raid, Graham was broadcasting on two different radio frequencies in an attempt to alert third parties that the ship was in international waters.
Distress signals were also relayed in order that their exact location would be logged. The ship was just 35 miles from Gaza when soldiers boarded.
"The Israeli propaganda machine would have said 'oh no, they were in Israeli waters'," said Graham. "It was 11.40am when they put their first hands on the boat."
Those onboard were advised of what positions to take ahead of the boarding party's arrival to avoid confrontation. The boarding was not captured on camera.
The passengers and crew remained above decks where they were made to sit down and had their electronic equipment confiscated.
"I was in the wheelhouse by myself and everyone else was mid-ship. About 35 heavily armed guys came on board and set up weapons," Graham told the Sunday Tribune.
"They pointed them at me through the wheelhouse glass just to make sure I didn't do anything."
Soldiers then placed him face down on the ground and tied his hands with cable. He was put at the back of the boat facing the wall for about three quarters of an hour before rejoining the rest of the passengers and crew.
"They didn't say too much. They weren't the most pleasant of people but they didn't harm anyone. That was my primary concern, to keep everyone onboard safe."
The ship and those onboard were then taken to the port of Ashdod where they were searched. One female crew member was strip-searched. The crew were removed to a processing centre where they were all asked to sign papers confessing they had entered Israeli waters. "We all refused it. That went away straight away," said Graham.
Israeli officer: Move to channel 11.
Derek: We will stay on channel 16 over.
Israeli officer: This is the (inaudible) warship; I have a few questions to ask you. First question: What is your home port?
Derek: Our home port of registry is Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Israeli officer: What is your cargo?
Derek: It is humanitarian cargo, over. Eh yes our planned destination is Gaza, over.
Israeli officer: ….the Israeli navy cannot and will not allow you to reach Gaza in that case. Given that we cannot let you through, allow you to reach Gaza, what are your alternative plans?
Derek: We are prepared to let the UN come and inspect the cargo to make sure that there is nothing of any threat to the Israeli government or the Israeli people and then we would be prepared to continue on into Gaza, over.
Israeli officer: Are you proposing an inspection at sea or an inspection in port? Over.
Derek: We would be proposing an inspection at sea by an independent body, ie, the UN, over.
Israeli officer: Are you aware that whether or not such an eventuality comes out, cargo to Gaza in such cases can only be shipped overland through Ashdod; are you aware of this Derek over?
Derek: (now 7.30am) Most of our equipment at the moment would be reconstruction, educational and toys, over.
(Back to man with American accent – 10.40am, 35 miles off Gaza)
Israeli officer: (inaudible vessel name)…you are hereby requested to change your course and refrain from entering the area. I repeat the delivery of humanitarian supplies to the civilian population in the Gaza Strip is possible through the overland crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip subject to prior coordination with the Israel authorities.
Derek: Received. There is one mistake; it is the MV Rachel Corrie. You do realise we are in international waters; we have not violated your 20 mile zone and we have not at any stage entered the 20 mile zone, over. (Silence) David, did you copy my last message? It was: we are not inside the 20 mile zone, we have not violated Israeli water; we are still in international water. Do you copy this last message over?
(At this point, text on the screen announces: 'Two warships, two gunboats, six zodiacs surrounded the MV Rachel Corrie in international waters, 5 June, 2010. 30-35 fully armed commandos hijacked and detained ship, cargo, passengers and crew while ship is forcefully brought to Ashdod'.)
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