Kiwi being held by Israelis identified

Last updated 19:42 01/06/2010
Nicola Enchmarch
Nicola Enchmarch is one of a number of people named by a British organisation as either captured of injured in the Israeli assault.
Shemi Tzur
The Dominion Post
Israeli Ambassador Shemi Tzur

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has confirmed the New Zealand woman caught up in the clash between Israeli armed forces and Gaza-bound aid workers is former Aucklander Nicola Enchmarch.

The Israeli Embassy in Wellington this afternoon said it was regrettable that lives were lost in a one-sided clash, but maintained the blame lies with those who tried to violate a blockade.

At least nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed when Israeli marines stormed a Turkish ship yesterday as a flotilla moved to breach the blockade to supply aid to residents in Gaza. Others, including Ms Enchmarch, were captured and detained in Israeli custody.

An MFAT spokeswoman confirmed to NZPA the New Zealander involved was Ms Enchmarch.

Her sister, Katherine Enchmarch, told Radio New Zealand the family had not had any direct contact with her but had been assured she was safe and well.

"We're just looking forward to her coming home," Katherine Enchmarch said.

"We don't actually know anything more than what the consulate told us."

A statement released by the embassy in Wellington today said the flotilla was warned not to advance, and while five of the six ships complied, one defied the order. "The violence came only from one ship."

The statement said under international maritime law, when there was a naval blockade in place no vessels were permitted to enter, but flotilla representatives had previously made it clear they intended to ignore that.

The embassy alleged naval representatives were met with violent opposition when boarding the aid ship and some were hospitalised.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully met today with Israeli Ambassador Shemi Tzur while the backlash here and internationally intensified against Israel's apparent heavy-handedness.

Mr McCully was assured Ms Enchmarch who was part of the flotilla was safe and well.

The minister said he made the Government's concern clear, including its support of an international investigation, but was reluctant to make accusations about the clash until there were more answers.

International reports suggested most of those killed were Turkish. That country's government has slammed Israel, withdrawing its ambassador there and claiming Israel has no intention to help try to restore peace in the region.

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Several other nations have been quick to back Turkey's stance and angry reactions in the likes of Iran and Iraq have included the public burning of Israel's flag. Israeli embassies have been targeted by protesters in countries around the world.

While Israel claims its commandos were attacked first, the flotilla's organisers maintain the Israeli forces simply opened fire.

The Green and Labour parties say the incident was an appalling show of force and over-reaction to a group with a peaceful intent, and have questioned the strength of New Zealand's stance.

Greens foreign affairs spokesman Keith Locke argued the boarding of ships by Israeli forces flouted international law, and while Israel disputes that, Mr McCully said international investigations would assess whether that was the case.

He said Mr Tzur had outlined the difficulties faced by Israel in relation to Gaza, and the importance of the blockade to the security of Israel and issues around Gaza.

Mr Tzur had given an assurance over the safety of Ms Enchmarch. While some of those detained were being immediately deported, Ms Enchmarch -- understood to be working with a British organisation -- had been offered release, but opted not to take deportation. Her detention was likely to be brief. "I think things will move fairly quickly from here," Mr McCully said.

Meanwhile, the Wellington Palestine Group said the raids on "defenceless humanitarians" had outraged even Israel's friends.

"Murray McCully should join the rest of the international community and demand that the Israeli ambassador convey a message that Israel must lift its siege on Gaza and cease illegal settlement building elsewhere in occupied Palestinian territory," spokesman Omar Hamed said.

AUSTRALIAN INJURED

One Australian was wounded during the deadly commando raid. Two other Australians, Fairfax journalists Paul McGeough and Kate Geraghty, were on board but were not hurt and are being detained in an Israeli detention centre.
   
Australia is demanding Israel conduct a credible investigation subject to international scrutiny over the raid.
   
Australian foreign Minister Stephen Smith described the incident as ''terrible and shocking''.
  
He said one Australian was shot in the leg during the attack and was being treated in an Israeli hospital, but did not identify the person.

- NZPA

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