Seven Irish citizens held after Israeli raid

Seven Irish citizens are being detained in Israel after the Gaza-bound aid flotilla they were sailing in was raided by armed and masked Israeli commandos in the early hours of yesterday morning, the Irish Times reports.

Up to 16 passengers died in the operation, the majority Turkish nationals on board the Istanbul cruise ship, Mavi Marmara . Another 50 were injured on this and another ship. The incident has prompted international outrage and calls for a full investigation.

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The UN Security Council today condemned acts leading to the deaths of civilians during yesterday's Israeli operation and called for an impartial investigation. In a formal statement adopted after more than 10 hours of closed-door negotiations, the council requested the immediate release of ships and civilians held by Israel.

At an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said: “This is tantamount to banditry and piracy. It is murder conducted by a state.”

Many of the remaining participants, including activists from several countries and a number of European parliamentarians, were due to be processed in the port city of Ashdod before being deported to their home countries by air.

Among those detained are seven Irish passport holders including members of the Free Gaza Movement’s Irish affiliate. The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign said its member, Shane Dillon, was being deported, while Fintan Lane and Fiachra Ó Luain were contesting their deportation and will be brought to court within 72 hours. Also detained in Israel were two naturalized Irish citizens originally from Libya and now resident in Ireland; an Australian journalist travelling on an Irish passport; and a Polish-Irish activist.

Eftaima Najjair, wife of Al Mahdi Alharati, one of the detained Irish passport holders, said she was “shocked” at the news. “We have no information so I’m afraid that he might be injured. We thought there would be no risk in taking part in the flotilla,” she said.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has criticized Israel for denying Ireland’s Ambassador consular access to those in Ashdod.

“These people did not enter Israel illegally. They were essentially kidnapped from international waters, taken into Israel, and asked to sign documents confirming that they entered illegally. That is unacceptable,” Martin said.

He called for Israel to exercise “absolute restraint” in its dealings with the Irish-owned vessel MV Rachel Corrie, which is understood to be en route to Gaza.