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No Guarantees For NZ Gaza Crew’s Safety

No Guarantees For NZ Gaza Crew’s Safety - Govt

UPDATE: A spokesperson for the Kia Ora Gaza crew says they are still in the Syrian port of Latakia due to delays.

The Government has not sought assurances for the safety of six New Zealanders onboard a Gaza aid convoy but says the group is obviously comfortable with the risks.

The Kia Ora Gaza crew set sail from Syria yesterday onboard the 400-strong Viva Palestina flotilla, which says it hopes to thwart an Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip by delivering its cargo overland across the Egyptian border.

However the crew’s blog indicates their route to the Egyptian port of Al-Arish will pass through waters where Israeli special forces boarded and killed nine members of a previous aid convoy, the Mavi Marmara, in May this year.

A source in the Israeli Defence Force told the Jerusalem Post Sunday they were “prepared” for the flotilla, although they did not expect it to try to reach Gaza directly.

But Prime Minister John Key said Monday he had not been briefed on their situation and would not say whether he was concerned for their safety.

Key said he was sure the crew had considered the risks.

“They obviously feel comfortable with the decision that they’re making and that’s why they’ve personally made that decision.

“If they weren’t I would assume they wouldn’t take that voyage.”

He deferred all other questions to Foreign Minister Murray McCully.

A spokesperson for McCully said he had been kept fully briefed on Kia Ora Gaza’s movements and had warned the crew the situation in the Middle East was “difficult” as New Zealand had no embassies in Israel or the Palestinian territories.

“What they are planning has potential risks associated with it, and our ability to help them will be limited.”

“We haven’t been in direct contact with the Israelis or the Egyptian authorities over Kia Ora Gaza but given that Kia Ora Gaza has made their plans publicly known, no doubt both Israel and Egypt will be aware of them.”

ENDS

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