Former US congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, left, an Irish Nobel Prize winner and British filmmaker are among 21 human rights activists still in jail a week after they were seized by the Israeli navy on board a relief boat in international waters as they were heading to Gaza on a humanitarian mission.
Tel Aviv claims the boat was trying to break Israel's two-year siege on Gaza. Ishmahil Blagrove, Black film-maker and founder of RicenPeas Films is currently being held in cramped jail conditions, along with other UK nationals, Nobel Laureate Mairead McGuire and McKinney. According to statements from them smuggled out of Ramla High Security Prison in Israel, Israeli special forces opened fire on the unarmed ship when it was 23 miles off the coast of Gaza, in Palestinian waters on Tuesday June 30. They then boarded the ship and arrested all on board. So far there has been little or no news media coverage of the incident. Blagrove's work has previously been broadcast by both the BBC and Channel 4.
The hostages are now at Ramla prison, in Givon, separated from Arab and Aljazeera TV company passengers, after their ordeal at the hands of the Israeli crack troops supported by six navy gunships.
They say they are unaware of the status of two Palestinian Israeli citizens separated on arrest. Four British nationals,including the Captain of the Spirit of Humanity Denis Healey and Adie Mormech, Ishmahil Blagrove and Fathi Jaouadi, are being held in the Ramla prison.
Conditions are said to be appalling, with 14-20 people crowded into a cell measuring 7m by 7m. Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead McGuire, from Northern Ireland, was forcibly removed in handcuffs and her status unknown.
Radical McKinney - the 2008 Green Party nominee for President of the United States - has accused Tel Aviv of violating the international law by seizing an aid vessel in international waters.
Speaking from an Israeli prison cellblock in Ramle, McKinney said: "I am one of the Free Gaza 21, human rights activists currently imprisoned for trying to take medical supplies to Gaza, building supplies - and even crayons for children; We have been detained, and we want the people of the world to see how we have been treated just because we wanted to deliver humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza."
She added: "This is an outrageous violation of international law against us. Our boat was not in Israeli waters, and we were on a human rights mission to the Gaza Strip. We are asking the international community to demand our release so we can continue our journey."
Her father told Press TV in a phone call: "My wife and I are very concerned about her safety."
Bill McKinney said that the US government should support Cynthia's message and added, "Her major concern is human."
Green Party leaders have called on the White House and the US State Department to intervene and demand the immediate release of all the activists.
On Monday, the International Committee of the Red Cross warned of dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, saying 1.5 million Palestinians living in the coastal sliver are 'trapped in despair' because of the continuing Israeli blockade on the territory.
Since June 2007, when Israel imposed a blockade on the territory, no raw material has entered Gaza, stalling any attempt to rebuild the strip.
According to the humanitarian agency report, seriously ill patients were not receiving the treatment they needed and thousands of Gazans whose homes were destroyed during Israel's three-week Christmas war were still without shelter.
In April 2007, while participating in a protest against the construction of the Israel's security fence outside the Arab settlement of Bil'in, the Israeli forces dispersed the protesters and Mairead McGuire was hit by a rubber-coated bullet. On that occasion, she was also tear gassed, and needed medical treatment in an Israeli hospital.
On December 30, 2008, McKinney was aboard the ship Dignity as it attempted to enter the Gaza Strip, which had its coastal area declared a "closed military zone" by Israel, while on a humanitarian mission by the Free Gaza Movement from Cyprus. Aboard were physicians, medical supplies, and activists, including Caoimhe Butterly.
The Israel Navy confronted the ship at night in international waters. Members of the crew claimed that the ship was rammed, gunfire was directed at the water, and the ship was forced to dock in Lebanon after taking on water. Israel officials claimed that the collision was accidental and occurred after the ship was informed they wouldn't be allowed to enter Gaza and tried to outmaneuver the patrol boat; they decried McKinney's actions as being irresponsible and provocative for the sake of propaganda.
The-Latest contacted the Israeli Embassy's press office in London UK but was unable to get a comment about the imprisonment of the Gaza 21.