Irish Gaza aid ship Rachel Corrie 'must finish voyage'

Image caption, Nobel peace prize winner Mairead Maguire was on one of the ships

The Irish government has called on Israel to allow an Irish-registered aid ship to continue its voyage to Gaza.

The Rachel Corrie, which left Dundalk about three weeks ago, is still pressing ahead to breach the Israeli blockade.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Corrigan Maguire is one of five Irish people on board.

At least five Irish citizens from other ships who were detained on Sunday are expected to be deported within days.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen earlier warned of "serious consequences" if any of the Irish citizens detained in Israel were harmed, and called for their immediate and unconditional release.

At least nine civilian activists were killed after armed forces boarded the largest vessel carrying aid to the Gaza Strip.

Israel says its soldiers were shot at; the activists say Israeli troops came on board shooting.

The activists were attempting to defy a blockade imposed by Israel after the Islamist movement Hamas took power in Gaza in 2007.

Image caption, Mairead Maguire pictured beside the MV Rachel Corrie before it left Dundalk

Ms Maguire told BBC Radio Ulster: "I hope that we will be able to get to Gaza and bring in humanitarian aid.

"The ports have been closed for over 40 years. It's not so much that we get in, it is that the people of Gaza cant get out.

"You have 1.5m people, it's like the population of Northern Ireland totally cut off from the world by this inhumane, illegal siege of Gaza," she added.

Demonstrations against the Israeli actions were held in Belfast and Londonderry on Monday.

Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin met Israeli ambassador Dr Zion Evrony on Monday after summoning him to explain what happened.

Dr Evrony said he regretted the loss of life and that Israel had hoped the incident would end peacefully.

He said he was neither ashamed nor embarrassed by what happened.

International waters

The incident happened about 40 miles (64 km) out to sea, in international waters.

The six-ship flotilla, carrying 10,000 tonnes of aid, left the coast of Cyprus on Sunday and had been due to arrive in Gaza on Monday.

Organisers of the flotilla said at least 30 people were wounded in the incident. Israel says 10 of its soldiers were injured, one seriously.

Israel had repeatedly said it would stop the boats, calling the campaign a "provocation intended to delegitimise Israel".

Israel and Egypt tightened a blockade of Gaza after the Islamist movement Hamas took power there in 2007.

Israel says it allows about 15,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid into Gaza every week.

But the United Nations says this is less than a quarter of what is needed.

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