Groups protest at Israeli consulate

December 30, 2008 11:33:01 PM PST
Israeli supporters faced off against pro-Palestinian protesters outside the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco Tuesday night. The crowds spilled into the streets and those condemning Israel's bombing of Gaza marched up Market Street.

In attendance were members of an East Bay group that has been helping ship supplies into Gaza up until Monday night, when their boat clashed with the Israeli Navy.

The 60-foot yacht "Destiny" limped into Lebanon Tuesday morning, a huge gash in its side. On board was former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.

"Our mission was a peaceful mission to deliver medical supplies; our mission was thwarted by the Israeli's, the aggressiveness of Israeli military," McKinney said.

Tuesday morning, the group's founder watched the coverage from his home in El Cerrito.

"We were carrying a little over three tons of medical supplies," Paul Larrudee said.

Larudee says it was the sixth such trip the boat has made between Cyprus and Gaza.

The boat pulled away from Cyprus Monday night, but 45 miles off the shore of Israel, Larudee says the ship was confronted by Israeli patrol boats.

"And we replied that, 'I'm sorry but we're not in Israeli waters, we're in international waters, you have no authority to stop us in international waters and so, please just let us go on our way,' that's when they came in and rammed us," Larrudee said.

A spokesperson for the Israeli Navy insists it was an accident, saying "The Israeli vessel was forced to execute emergency maneuvers in order to avoid the Dignity. The Dignity continued sailing and hit the Israeli vessel. Both vessels suffered light damage."

Light damage is not how Larudee describes it.

"I have to guess that it's in the neighborhood of $50,000," Larrudee said.

Already the group has been offered another boat, Larudee says calls and e-mails of support have been coming in from all over the world.

"And this has brought a lot of negative attention to Israel, which was totally unnecessary; if they wanted to ignore us and allow us to go in I doubt that you would be here today," Larrudee said.


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