Israel navy stops 4-boat flotilla seeking to defy Gaza blockade

Israel navy stops 4-boat flotilla seeking to defy Gaza blockade

After the overnight operation to stop the flotilla, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded the navy’s actions and insisted his government was right to take action against Hamas.



By (AFP)

Published: Tue 30 Jun 2015, 9:30 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 3:07 PM

Palestinians wave their national flag during the rally in support of activists aboard a pro-Gaza flotilla made up of four boats aimed at defying Israel’s blockade of Gaza, at the seaport of Gaza City on Monday. — AFP

Palestinians wave their national flag during the rally in support of activists aboard a pro-Gaza flotilla made up of four boats aimed at defying Israel’s blockade of Gaza, at the seaport of Gaza City on Monday. — AFP

Ashdod (Israel) — The Israeli navy was escorting an activist vessel defying its blockade of Gaza to port on Monday after taking it over without the deadly force that marred a similar attempt in 2010.

Among the passengers on the commandeered ship were Tunisia’s former president Moncef Marzouki and Arab-Israeli lawmaker Basel Ghattas.

A flotilla of four boats carrying pro-Palestinian activists had been seeking to reach Gaza to highlight the Israeli blockade of the territory that they called “inhumane and illegal”.

Three of the boats were said to have turned back while a fourth, the Marianne of Gothenburg, was boarded by the Israeli navy and was being escorted to the Israeli port of Ashdod.

The activists’ campaign came as Israel faced heavy international pressure over its actions in Gaza, with a UN report last week saying both the Jewish state and Hamas may have committed war crimes during a 50-day conflict in the besieged coastal enclave last summer.

The reconstruction of thousands of homes in Gaza destroyed during the fighting between Israel and Hamas is yet to begin, and both Israel’s blockade and a lack of support from international donors have been blamed.

After the overnight operation to stop the flotilla, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded the navy’s actions and insisted his government was right to take action against Hamas.

“In accordance with international law, the Israeli navy advised the vessel several times to change course,” the military said in a statement.

“Following their refusal, the navy visited and searched the vessel in international waters in order to prevent their intended breach of the maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip.

“The forces have reported that use of force was unnecessary, and that the process was uneventful,” it added. “The vessel is currently being escorted to Ashdod port and is expected to arrive within 12-24 hours.”

A military spokeswoman confirmed that the vessel was the Swedish-flagged Marianne of Gothenburg, part of the so-called Freedom Flotilla III.

Organisers of the flotilla said the vessel was a fishing trawler carrying medical equipment and solar panels with 18 people on board, including the Tunisian ex-president. 


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