By Julie Webb-Pullman
Two weeks after two explosions tore through the hull of Gaza’s Ark in the Gaza seaport, causing serious damage and the postponement of the departure date from June to September, Ministry of Interior and National Security (MINS) spokesperson Iyad Al-Buzom said the investigation is progressing, and reassured activists that everything possible is being done to ensure their safety in Gaza.
“It was a professional job,” Al-Buzom told Gaza SCOOP. “There is no strong evidence linking it to any specific individual, which makes our job very difficult. Nevertheless, we are hopeful of a breakthrough.”
“The Ministry appreciates the role of activists in Gaza and their attempts to break the siege, and we provide protection for them and use all means at our disposal to ease their work,” he said.
In a scenario reminiscent of the 1985 sinking of the Greenpeace protest ship Rainbow Warrior by French secret service agents in Auckland, New Zealand, the saboteurs attached explosives to the outside of Gaza’s Ark below the waterline. While the attack on Gaza’s Ark did not cause any fatalities, Portuguese photographer Fernando Pereira was killed on the Rainbow Warrior when he returned after the first explosion to retrieve his photographic gear.
The guard of Gaza’s Ark was more fortunate. “The guard received a phone call warning him there was going to be an explosion,” Gaza’s Ark activist Charlie Andreasson told Gaza SCOOP. “He immediately went away, and after five minutes or so nothing had happened so he thought it must have been friends playing a joke on him, and went back.” As he neared the boat, the explosion ripped through it.
The explosions took place at dawn when most fishermen and other potential witnesses would have been at fajr prayer, another indication that it was a well-planned professional operation.
Andreasson said that even though they do not yet know the type of explosives used, he did not believe they were made in Gaza or Palestine.
“We have our suspicions about who is responsible,” he said, “because of the type of explosives, and how they were placed.”
Was it Israel?
“We are still establishing the origin of the explosives used, and although others have pointed the finger at Israel, the Ministry of Interior and National Security will not accuse the Israeli occupation, or anyone else, without sufficient evidence,” Al Buzom said, advising that the investigation was still ongoing.
“However, the obvious question is, who benefits from such an attack?”
It is not the first time Freedom Flotilla boats challenging the Israeli siege have been sabotaged. Over the last five years, boats have been sabotaged in the ports of Cyprus, Greece and Turkey as they were preparing to sail to Gaza to defy the now eight-year illegal blockade.
The Gaza’s Ark attack came a month before the fourth anniversary of that on the Mavi Marmara, when Israeli forces stormed the humanitarian aid ship in international waters, killing nine Turkish nationals and wounding scores of others.
Is Gaza safe for activists?
Al Buzom noted that incidents such as this show that it is not just Gazans, but also foreigners who are being violated by the Israeli occupation.
“The Ministry, and all the popular and official institutions in Gaza, condemn this latest attack, as we condemn all other attacks on people providing assistance to Gaza.”
He added that this is the only such event in the last eight years on Gazan soil, and that MINS was on the job from the first moment of the explosions.
“Safety and security in Gaza is excellent, the security services are doing a great job. We would like to reassure all activists that they can be sure that Gaza is safe, and that MINS is committed to protecting them and preventing any danger or targeting of them.”
It once more begs the question, who benefits from the intimidation of activists and other foreigners defying the illegal blockade of Gaza? And will it work?
“We remain committed to continue challenging the blockade by any peaceful means available until it is lifted permanently,” said Robert Naiman, a member of Gaza’s Ark Steering Committee. Yesterday the same committee advised that they intend to overcome the severe damage sustained to the boat’s hull, and sail the ship by late September.
Other foreigners in Gaza are equally determined to stay and continue their work, viewing the attack as just another of the many perils inherent in working in a besieged and occupied territory suffering constant Israeli aggression.
“That’s Gaza,” one said, noting that the Gaza streets are safer than her own western country. “I have a lot of confidence in the security services here. Israeli violations of people and their rights happen every day. It’s why I am here, to stand up to it and tell the world what is going on. I’m not going to run away at the first explosion, or even the thousandth. I will only leave when Gaza is free.”
As the investigation into the Gaza’s Ark sabotage progresses, work to repair the damage gets underway, and foreigners in Gaza continue their daily tasks, the catch-phrase that quickly arose in New Zealand after the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior comes to mind.
“You can’t sink a rainbow.”