On Friday, August 3rd, after three days of attempts to reach the Canadian Captain of the yacht Freedom by satellite phone, Superior Media was finally able to get through to Captain John Turnbull. Captain Turnbull is 68 yrs, and a resident of Vancouver, B.C.
Captain Turnbull is part of the ‘Freedom Flotilla’, a group of medical professionals, journalists and social justice advocates who are trying to reach Gaza to deliver badly needed medical supplies to the besieged region. The Port of Gaza is a small port near the Rimal district of Gaza City. The blockade of the Gaza Strip is the ongoing land, air, and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip imposed by Israel and Egypt since 2007.
In September 2007, the Israeli cabinet voted to tighten the restrictions on the Gaza strip. The cabinet decision stated, “the movement of goods into the Gaza Strip will be restricted; the supply of gas and electricity will be reduced; and restrictions will be imposed on the movement of people from the Strip and to it. boat-carrying-medical-supplies-for-gaza-hijacked-by-israeli-forces
On Sunday, July 29th, the Israeli Occupation Forces cut all communications and attacked the lead boat (‘Al Awda) in international waters, and stripped the Norwegian flag down. According to the many testimonies that were shared, including Yonatan Shapira, a former Israeli Air Force Officer who was a participant aboard ‘Al Awda’, they then beat up and tasered several people and stole most of the participants’ property. One of those injured was a 69 year old female surgeon, Dr. Ang.
Four boats left Scandinavia in mid-May and have since stopped in 28 ports building support for a ‘Just Future for Palestine’.
When I spoke with Captain Turnbull, Freedom was 50 nautical miles from the coast of Gaza. The connection was difficult – satellite phones are not known for crisp, clear transmission – however at that time I was relieved to hear that all 12 members of the crew were safe. Freedom was requesting entry to the port at Gaza which has been blocked by Israel for many years.Freedom is the second vessel in ‘Freedom Flotilla’, an international effort to bring medical professionals and medical supplies to the people of Gaza.
I would learn, about two hours later, that Captain Turnbull and the 12 members of the crew aboard Freedom were boarded, and ultimately arrested in international waters by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). The video below was made in the event of his capture.
According to a statement released by ‘Freedom Flotilla Coalition’:
At 20:06 (CEST) all contact was lost with the sailing vessel Freedom. She sails under a Swedish flag, and was on a mission to break the illegal Israeli blockade of the Palestinian people of Gaza. We have reason to presume that the Israeli Occupation Forces has now begun to attack it and that it has been surrounded in International Waters. The latest reported position was approximately 40 nautical miles from the coast of Gaza.’
Freedom is a gift for the Palestinian fishers of Gaza and is carrying a cargo of medical supplies, including #Gauze4Gaza. On board are 10 participants and two journalists from five countries. The last news that we had from Freedom was that she was maintaining her course towards Gaza and the ‘conscience of humanity’.
The Israeli Occupation Forces claims that our civilian boats – including our 100% wind-powered boat – are breaking international law and threatens that they will use ‘any measures necessary’ to stop us. We assert the right of ‘innocent passage’ guaranteed under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 and call upon international authorities to protect our small yacht. The only ‘necessary measures’ are to end the illegal blockade of Gaza and to restore freedom of movement for all Palestinians.
“We demand that Israel ends its ongoing breaches of international law, including the collective punishment of a twelve-year blockade of Gaza, thereby enabling the only closed port in the Mediterranean to open and that people have their universal right to freedom of movement.” said Turnbull.
“The Freedom Flotilla Coalition calls on the Norwegian Government, the national governments of those aboard Al Awda and the Freedom, other national governments, and relevant international organizations to act immediately.” said Torstein Dahle of Ship to Gaza Norway, part of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition. “The international community must assume its responsibilities and demand that Israeli authorities ensure the safety of those on board, the speedy delivery of our gifts to the Palestinian people in Gaza, an end to the illegal blockade of Gaza, and to stop impeding our legal right of innocent passage to Gaza to deliver our gift of much-needed medical supplies”.
“The Canadian Consulate has been actively working to gain Captain Turnbull’s release” said Karen DeVito. As of publication of this article, Captain Turnbull has not yet been released from an Israeli jail.
Superior Media will continue to follow this story.