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Survivor of first boat of Freedom Flotilla attacked by Israeli Navy Returns Home to Bay Ar

Saturday, June 12, 2010
10:00 PM - 11:00 PM
Event Type:
Donna Wallach
(h) 408-293-4774, (cell) 408-569-6608
Location Details:
San Francisco Airport

For Immediate Release Saturday, June 12, 2010 For Immediate Release

Eduardo Cohen (650)-363-8313/367-7325;
Donna Wallach (408)293-4774/cell 569-6608

On first boat to be attacked by Israeli Navy,
Abducted at gunpoint, Retired Nurse, Grandmother,
and ‘Survivor’ of Gaza Freedom Flotilla,
Returns Home to Bay Area TONIGHT

TONIGHT, Kathy Sheetz, a 63 year-old retired nurse from Richmond, will return home to the Bay Area after being kidnapped from a ship in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and imprisoned by Israeli soldiers in a specially built Israeli jail. The ships were intercepted and commandeered by the Israeli navy as they were attempting to deliver humanitarian supplies to the people of Gaza who have been suffering under a debilitating blockade for four years.

Ms. Sheetz will arrive at San Francisco International Airport tonight at 10:00pm on American Airlines Flight 197 directly from Boston.

Though widely reported that the Mavi Marmara – the Turkish ship on which at least nine activists were killed – suffered the most violent attack from the Israeli Navy, it is now apparent that two US flagged passenger ships were the first boats of the Gaza Flotilla to be attacked by Israeli military forces: Challenger 1 on which Kathy Sheetz sailed and Challenger 2, both from the Free Gaza Movement.

While attempting to rendezvous with the humanitarian Gaza Freedom Flotilla off the coast of Cyprus, both of the US flagged passenger boats experienced simultaneous and nearly identical mechanical malfunctions that hampered steering on both ships. The captain of Challenger 1 was able to effect emergency repairs but passengers aboard Challenger 2 had to be transferred to other boats. The strange circumstances of the malfunctions raised suspicions of Israeli sabotage, but Free Gaza organizers didn’t want to raise that charge publicly without evidence.

Just days later that evidence was provided by two high ranking Israeli military officials. Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai inferred on Israel Radio that Israeli operations had reduced the number of ships that were able to participate in the flotilla." And according to Israel National News, Colonel Itzik Tourgeman told a Knesset (Israeli Parliament) committee that two ships on their way to break the naval blockade of Gaza “have not reached their target” because “covert action was taken against them."

Kathy Sheetz is concerned that Americans don’t seem to know that well before the larger Turkish ship was attacked, the Israelis had already attacked and disabled two US flagged boats.

But also, believing the Israeli military knew that smugglers would not choose to smuggle arms on a boat that’s nearly certain to be searched, Ms. Sheetz is also dismayed that American reporters foolishly accepted fantastic Israeli claims of arms smuggling on the humanitarian ships. “Why didn’t American journalists question those absurd Israeli claims,” she asks,” and press Israeli officials for the real reasons they used lethal force and killed nine humanitarian activists in international waters?”

“People who haven’t witnessed the terrible suffering that the people of Gaza are forced to endure may not understand this,” Kathy Sheetz explains, “but most of us are ready to attempt more challenges of the blockade, and to put our bodies and well-being on the line, again and again until Gaza is free and Palestinians can enjoy their basic human rights.”

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Page Two (of two)

More about Katherine Sheetz:

Kathy Sheetz, 63, is soft-spoken and her quiet and even shy demeanor belies a steely determination to defend the human and economic rights of disenfranchised people – not just in Palestine but in many parts of the developing world including Haiti where she has been involved for years.

She holds a Masters Degree in Sustainable Development,

In August 2008 Ms. Sheetz sailed on the SS FREE GAZA, which along with the SS LIBERTY, successfully sailed from the port of Larnaca on Cyprus to Gaza City. They were the first two boats to successfully break the Israeli blockade (or siege) of Gaza.

Kathy also participated in the ninth voyage of the Free Gaza Movement sailing aboard the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, with former US Congresswoman from Georgia Cynthia McKinney. The SPIRIT OF HUMANITY was also hijacked at gunpoint off the coast of Gaza and taken to Israel. Kathy – along with all the other passengers and crew – was arrested and held for ten days in an Israeli prison and then deported. Israel stole all the cargo onboard and the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY remains in the hands of the Israeli Navy.

Ms. Sheetz lives with her partner Steve in Richmond, California.
Added to the calendar on Sat, Jun 12, 2010 1:55PM
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