Jenny and Derek Graham

ISRAELI intelligence agents photographed members of the Rachel Corrie aid mission before the ship left dock in Dundalk, the first mate of the vessel has claimed.

In an interview with the Sunday Tribune, Derek Graham maintained that during their time in Israeli custody they saw photographs of several members of the group clearly taken in Ireland.

"They had people in Dundalk taking pictures. I would say it is standard. They would be either Mossad or IDF intelligence," he said.

"There was a picture of Jenny [his wife] and when she saw it she knew it was taken in Dundalk because of the background. That is where we bought the ship and got it ready and got it loaded."

The claims are significant in light of the recent controversy surrounding a suspected Mossad operation in Dubai in which Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was assassinated.

Those involved in the murder used fake passports, some of which had authentic Irish serial numbers.

"It wasn't startling because we had an idea that we were being watched," said Graham.

"I have done this [humanitarian aid missions] for three years and I had them outside my house in Cyprus and following us to the shops.

"I don't mind the ones that you can see – they are there for intimidation or just to let you know [you are being watched]. But it's the ones you can't see that I don't like."

Graham believes the Israeli authorities had carried out considerable research on the party before they left for Gaza.

Aside from photographing members of the aid mission, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) was also aware of the original name of the MV Rachel Corrie and refused to address it by its new one.

"They had their research done to know it was called the MV Linda before we renamed it," he said.

Nobody in the Israeli embassy could be reached for comment yesterday.

Labour's spokesman on foreign affairs, Michael D Higgins said that such actions could be seen as a potential diplomatic incident.

"If it was true, and taken in the context of all the other actions that have taken place [involving clandestine Israeli operations], it has to be part of the judgement of Micheál Martin in terms of what is done on the passport issue," he said.

"It would be of the same category of action and impropriety as the use of Irish passports [by Israeli agents]. These are not the actions of countries with friendly diplomatic relations."