Exclusive footage obtained from Freedom Flotilla before Israeli interception

By Taroi Black

A Māori Television crew will be flown back from Israel after their boat was detained by the Israeli Navy while attempting to break the Gaza blockade.

Native Affairs reporter Ruwani Perera and cameraman Jacob Bryant were on one of the flotilla boats following a group of Palestinian activists attempting to break through the blockade to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Days before being detained by Israeli defence forces, Native Affairs reporter, Ruwani Perera and cameraman Jacob Bryant, were focused on getting the story home.

Perera said, “It’s a two and a half days sail to Gaza.  We are using this opportunity to get supplies from Crete and most importantly we are downloading all our footage and sending it straight back on a plane to New Zealand.”

The Native Affairs crew were aboard one of the ships in the Freedom Flotilla III when it was seized by Israeli forces. Their footage arrived at Māori Television just hours before contact was lost.

Their boat, The Marianne, was towed to the port Ashdod overnight. 

Members of the flotilla were then taken to Tel Aviv. New Zealand embassy officials confirmed they had spoken to Perera who assured them the crew was safe and had been treated well - the same message she was able to share with her family.

Perera’s partner, Tim Werry says, “I found out for sure this morning through one of the bosses at Māori Television and that's good news. She called her sister briefly and to let her know that she was fine and looking forward to coming back and I don't know whether she knows what going on back here.”

Native Affairs was the only New Zealand media invited by KiaoraGaza to join international media who were reporting on the peace mission.

The flotilla was trying to breach Israel's exclusion zone on Gaza and take supplies to Palestinians on the Gaza Strip.

Tim Werry says, “I had spoken to Ruwani a lot when she was on the trip and on the boat and she said there was rough waters there and her spirits were really high as they were with the people on the boat.”

The Israeli blockade on Gaza has been in force since 2007, claiming to stop shipment of arms and terrorist attacks on Jewish citizens.

Palestinians say it’s turned Gaza into the world’s largest jail.

Janfrie Wakim says, “This is an outrage. This is a humanitarian crisis and the world is turning a blind eye.”

Both Ruwani and Jacob were due to be deported from Tel Aviv. The crew are expected to be home in the next 48 hours.