FAQs on the ships trying to reach Gaza

FAQ on the MV Rachel Corrie and the Gaza-bound flotilla seized by Israel

Why is there already another ship en route to Gaza?

The MV Rachel Corrie was supposed to be part of the original flotilla but was delayed in Malta by mechanical problems.

The ship was purchased by the Free Gaza Movement (FGM) earlier this year. Most of the funds to pay for the ship came from Malaysia.

Who and what cargo is on the MV Rachel Corrie?

Five passengers from Ireland are aboard, including 1976 Nobel Peace Prize winner Maireád Corrigan-Maguire and former UN assistant secretary general Denis Halliday. The rest of the passengers are from Malaysia: writer Mattias Chang, two members of the Malaysian parliament and a TV crew. Eric Harcis of Scotland is the ship's captain.

Derek Graham uses a bottle of Palestinian olive oil to officially name the cargo ship the MV Rachel Corrie on May 12, 2010 before it departed from Dundalk , Ireland, for the Middle East with a cargo of cement and supplies for Gaza. (Niall Carson/Associated Press)

It is carrying aid materials from Ireland: "educational materials, construction materials, medical equipment and some toys," Derek Graham, one of the Irish nationals aboard the ship, told The Irish Times.

Corrigan said on Irish radio that their aim was "to break the siege on Gaza." Dennis Halliday said, "Our aim is not provocation but getting our aid cargo into Gaza."

Who was Rachel Corrie?

Corrie was a 23-year-old American student and activist crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer during a protest against home demolitions in Gaza in 2003. She was a member of the International Solidarity Movement, which is part of the Free Gaza Movement.

How will Israel respond?

In a statement, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yossi Gal said, "We have no interest in boarding the ship. If it sails directly to the Ashdod port, we will secure its crew and refrain from boarding it. Israel is prepared to receive the ship and unload its cargo. After it is checked to make sure it contains no weapons, we will be prepared to transfer all of the goods to Gaza."

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire, poses alongside the cargo ship MV Rachel Corrie, on May 12, 2010, before it departed from Dundalk , Ireland, for the Middle East. The ship, on which Maguire is one of 11 passengers, could reach Israel's 20-mile (32-kilometer) exclusion zone by June 4, according to activists, but Israel's prime minister has vowed the ship will not reach land. (Niall Carson/Associated Press)

If the MV Rachel Corrie attempts to continue to Gaza, Israel is expected to board the ship.

If that happens, Corrigan says, "We will sit down." She expects they will then be arrested "but there will be no resistance."

Is there any communication between the FGM and the Israeli government or military?

Yossi Gal, in his statement, mentioned messages sent to the group through private channels.

Greta Berlin, a leader of the FGM, challenged the accuracy of a report by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that "quiet messages have been exchanged over the past few days between Israel and the group operating the ship, to allow it to dock." While writing on the group's website that they have no intention of docking in Ashdod she did not challenge the assertion about messages exchanged.

How many times has the Free Gaza Movement been involved in sending ships to Gaza?

The flotilla that was seized on May 31 was the 10th mission. The first five succeeded in reaching Gaza, then two turned backed after confrontations with the Israeli navy. The navy forced the previous two missions, both in 2009, to dock in Ashdod without reaching Gaza.

Was there a plan about how to respond if Israel carried out its stated intention of forcing the flotilla to the Israeli port of Ashdod?

According to Norwegian activist Espen Goffeng, "The defence of the boat was quite well organized." Goffeng, who was on the Mavi Marmara, said, "There was a plan to keep soldiers off the boat." He says that when Israeli solders first tried to get aboard from inflatable boats they were repelled using fire hoses. Then came the helicopter assault, first with paintball bullets with glass, then rubber and then live ammunition, Goffeng told a news conference.

How many people died in the flotilla raid?

Nine men from Turkey were killed, all with gunshot wounds.

One of those killed was Furkan Dogan, a Turkish-American teenager from Troy, N.Y., who had been living in Turkey.

The Turkish forensics specialists said five men died with bullet wounds to the head. According to Dr. Haluk Ince, director of the Medical Examination Institute in Istanbul, one of the men died after "the gun was fired between two and 14 centimetres' distance from the victim's head."

This image reviewed by the Israeli military, shows the view from aboard an Israeli Naval vessel. Israeli Navy soldiers prepare to intercept several boats headed towards the Gaza Strip, while in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea, early Monday May 31, 2010. Israeli naval commandos on Monday stormed a flotilla of ships carrying aid and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to the blockaded Gaza Strip, killing 9 passengers in a dramatic predawn raid that set off worldwide condemnation and a diplomatic crisis. (Uriel Sinai/Associated Press, Pool)

According to Israel's Ministry of Health, 54 flotilla passengers and six Israeli soldiers were admitted to hospital with injuries.

What laws apply in the military seizure of a vessel in international waters?

Legal representatives will likely consult the United Nations Charter, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Geneva Conventions on the laws or war and the San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea. The latter dates from 1994 and consolidates earlier international rules on naval warfare and naval blockades.

Was the May 31 seizure legal?

CBC News put the question to two leading experts in international law: Ed Morgan, who teaches at the University of Toronto, and Craig Scott, who teaches at York University's Osgoode Hall Law School.

"The blockade itself is legal and as part of a blockade, you are allowed to arrest a ship and bring it into port to inspect goods," Morgan said.

"You are allowed to do that in international waters … if they are steaming toward the territorial sea that you are blockading, you do not have to wait until they actually get within the territorial sea, which is quite a narrow band from the coast.

"If the blockade is justified because overall there is a military objective, not only is it legal, it is proper to take it to a port … to inspect the goods and then let the non-lethal goods pass.

Scott agrees that naval blockades of neutral ships are permitted, if it is to prevent the ships from supplying war-related materiel or even as a general economic coercion. "However," he added, "should it turn out that the blockade is … unlawful, then the general principle would be that there can be no right to enforce an unlawful blockade."

According to Scott, "the dominant legal view would seem to be that the blockade as a whole had become illegal well before the Gaza flotilla incident — and may indeed have been illegal virtually from the outset" for "reasons related to both the principle of humanity within the laws of war and that principle's interaction with contemporary international human rights law."

For Scott, another reason Israel's actions were illegal is that "traditional laws of war long ago evolved to the point of recognizing the obligation of the blockading state to inspect cargo under the supervision of a neutral party, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, in order to make sure humanitarian supplies are not seized or diverted from their intended destination."

A frame grab from a video released by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) shows what the IDF says is a pro-Palestinian activist hitting Israeli soldiers with a club-like object upon the arrival of Israeli forces to a Gaza-bound ship May 31, 2010. (REUTERS/Handout/IDF)

Morgan added: "There is a secondary question: Was the seizure of the ship carried out in a legal fashion? That goes on the rule of proportionality: Did they use more force than was necessary given the force that they were met with?

"It's not obvious what the answer is to that."

What about Egypt's role in the blockade?

Egypt controls the only crossing to Gaza that Israel does not control. It has co-operated in maintaining the blockade.

According to Taghreed El-Khodary, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's government "will face both internal and external pressure to keep the border open. Hamas will press Cairo to keep the crossings open and will try to increase domestic pressure on Egypt. With upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections, Egypt's ruling regime will not want to give the opposition, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, an opportunity to use the security situation in Gaza to their advantage."

Why is Israel blockading Gaza?

According to Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the blockade was imposed in response to actions by the Hamas regime that controls Gaza, which "has repeatedly bombed civilian targets in Israel with weapons that have been smuggled into Gaza via the sea."

According to the UN Fact-Finding Mission into the Gaza War, led by Justice Richard Goldstone of South Africa, the blockade "was an intent to subject the Gaza population to conditions such that they would be induced into withdrawing their support from Hamas."