EL ARISH: Mission leader Matthias Chang has begun a hunger strike at 4pm local time, following the refusal of Egyptian authorities to allow the MV Finch to berth at the port here, yesterday.
The hunger strike will go on until the ship is either allowed to berth at the port or a supply ship with fresh food and water is sent to the ship anchored off the Egyptian port.
Since its arrival at the port vicinity, MV Finch’s request for fresh supplies and permission to berth were denied by the port authorities.
The denials were accompanied with excuses ranging from having no documentation, fake travelling documents and no approval from Egyptian Foreign Ministry.
The ship, its crew and passengers have also been harassed by the Egyptian navy.
The latest instance saw a light patrol vessel emerging from the port at around 4:30pm and circling the MV Finch several times until it blocked the ship's path as it stopped about half a mile from shore.
It ordered the ship to head back to sea at three nautical miles. All the navy personnel on-board wore bulletproof vests and were armed with machine guns.
After a 15 minute standoff, the MV Finch’s captain had to comply and the ship was escorted back to sea, escorted by the navy ship. During the confrontation the Egyptian navy also ordered the reporter on-board to stop filming the incident.
Earlier, Finch’s captain Abd Jalil Mansor had issued an ultimatum over radio to the port authority at around 3pm (EGYPT time).
He told the port authority that the vessel will come into port at that time regardless of the consequence, as it was in distress due to lack of food and water, a situation which was endangering its crew.
The ship departed Port Piraeus, Greece, on May 11, and arrived outside Port El Arish on May 16. Since May 16, the 12 crew members and passengers on-board the general cargo ship have to eat instant noodles and ration their water supply.
Most of their fresh food supplies were used up in their travel across the Mediterranean sea from Greece to Egypt.
MV Finch is a Malaysian company owned ship sponsored by Perdana Global Peace Foundation in its humanitarian aid mission named Spirit of Rachel Corrie to break the siege in Gaza and deliver PVC pipes to rehabilitate damaged sewerage system in Gaza.
At dawn on May 16, the ship successfully broke the siege by entering into Palestinian waters and was making its way into Gaza port before an Israeli navy patrol vessel fired several warning shots, forcing it to turn back into Egyptian waters. - nst.com.my