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Israel seizes Flotilla ship to Gaza and deports two human rights advocates to Canada

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Two Canadians, Robert Lovelace and Kevin Neish, who were on board the Freedom Flotilla III boat Marianne, headed towards Gaza when it was seized by Israeli forces early Monday morning, are returning to Canada today.

Israeli forces used an electric weapon against four Swedish crew members during their illegal seizure of vessel, which Israeli government sources described as "uneventful." The two were held in an Israeli prison with seven other Flotilla participants from Sweden, Norway and Russia, until being transferred to Ben Gurion Airport late Wednesday. They are expected to land at Pearson International Airport at 6:55 p.m., Thursday July 2.

Neish, a retired marine engineer from Victoria B.C., had been sailing with the Marianne since it left Sweden in early May. Lovelace, a Queen's university professor and member of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, joined the ship at its last port of call, Messina in Sicily on June 19.

"We are very happy to welcome home our two friends from their mission but we remain concerned about the six Swedish activists still in prison in Israel," commented David Heap, spokesperson for the Canadian Boat to Gaza Campaign. "Even more than freedom for our international friends, we want to see the world demand freedom of movement for the 1.8 million Palestinians living in the open-air prison of Gaza."

Ehab Lotayef, a Montreal engineer and writer, and Christian Martel, a retired trade-unionist from Québec, were among the internationals who participated in Freedom Flotilla III. They were on a different boat, the Rachel, which returns to Athens today. "Now we are focusing on future Flotillas to continue to challenge the blockade of Gaza," comments Lotayef. "The blockade must end completely and Palestinians must regain their full rights."


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