Family tell of anxious wait for news of city aid worker

THE family of a city aid worker caught up in the Gaza aid ship massacre today told how she had never been one to shy away from danger, as they desperately wait for news.

Theresa McDermott, 43, from Pilrig, was thought to have been travelling on one of the smaller vessels in the six-ship flotilla which was stormed by Israeli troops.

Up to 15 people on the boats were killed when the commandos boarded ships carrying 10,000 tonnes of supplies.

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Ms McDermott's sister Winnie Chambers, an Edinburgh University librarian said: "We're very concerned. We don't have a great deal of information at the moment.

"She's very brave and so committed to the cause of the people of Gaza, to the point where she's willing to put herself in harm's way and be imprisoned in dreadful conditions.

"She's her own person and nothing anyone says is going to change her mind."

Fellow activists in Edinburgh have been unable to contact Ms McDermott since Friday and they are not certain which ship she is on.

But Carl Abernethy, who co-founded Free Gaza Scotland with Ms McDermott last year, said she could be aboard the Irish vessel MV Rachel Corrie, which is still at sea and may still try to reach Gaza. All the rest of the convoy was escorted to the Israeli port of Ashdod.

Mr Abernethy said: "I can only assume at some point the Rachel Corrie has been separated. It may now be making an attempt to reach Gaza and in view of yesterday's PR disaster by the Israelis, it might actually get through."

Ms McDermott has been detained by the Israelis on three previous occasions while taking part in protests.

She was imprisoned and deported twice last year after two boats on which she was sailing were seized trying to breach the Gaza blockade.

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In 2003 she was arrested in the West Bank Palestinian village of Bidu while protesting against Israel's illegal security wall.

Mr Abernethy said: "The Israelis have claimed that some of the boats were carrying weapons for use by terrorists, but our boats were fully examined before we left port and were found to be carrying aid supplies only.

"The boats were carrying items that are restricted under the Israeli blockade including crayons, jam, paints, as well as medicines and wheelchairs. They were also carrying several tons of concrete for the rebuilding, which is also restricted."

Edinburgh North & Leith Labour MP Mark Lazarowicz said he had asked the Foreign Office to intervene with the Israeli authorities to make sure Ms McDermott was released unharmed.

• Around 200 protesters took part in a demonstration at The Mound yesterday following the Gaza aid ship massacre.

Scores of people waving Palestine flags and placards reading "Enough is Enough" and "Massacre – Hold Israel to Account" gathered next to the National Gallery of Scotland.