A South African woman identified as Leigh-Ann Naidoo, has called on government to secure her release after she was detained in Israel after her group tried to break the decade-long blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Naidoo said they had been intercepted and detained by the ‘Israeli occupation forces’ and asked South Africans to put pressure on the South African government to secure her release.
Department of International Relations spokesman Nelson Kgwete tweeted that the embassy was liaising with the Israeli authorities.
The thirteen women, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire, were detained on Wednesday evening after their sailboat was stopped around 35 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza.
The Israeli navy said it stopped them to prevent a “breach of the lawful maritime blockade” of the Palestinian enclave.
Ministry of Interior spokeswoman Sabin Haddad said two of the women, both journalists, had already left prison for the airport but the others were being held in the Givon prison in central Israel for up to four days before being deported.
“During these 96 hours they can see a judge to appeal their detention,” she added.
Gaza-based organiser Adham Abu Salmiyeh said in a statement he wanted the women to visit “Gaza to brief them on the deteriorating humanitarian situation after 10 years of blockade and collective punishment.”
The vessel was then taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod, about 30 kilometres (18 miles) north of Gaza.
Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, condemned the interception of the boat, while Islamist movement Hamas — which runs Gaza — called it “state terrorism.”
“We strongly condemn the Israeli aggression against the international flotilla that tried to break the illegal siege imposed by Israel on 1.8 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip,” Erekat said in a statement calling for their release.
Israel maintains a blockade to keep material it believes could be used for military purposes from entering the enclave.
UN officials have called for the blockade to be lifted, saying conditions are deteriorating in impoverished Gaza.
A twitter user has already started spreading the news in South Africa to help reach out to the government. He wrote;