[News] Gaza protest boat forced into Israeli port

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jul 19 13:22:56 EDT 2011

Gaza protest boat forced into Israeli port
French yacht made to dock at Ashdod after it was boarded by Israeli 
naval commandos.


Israeli naval commandos seized control of a French ship attempting to 
break its blockade of the Gaza Strip and towed it into Ashdod port, 
reporting no resistance during the takeover in international waters.

The ship Dignite-Al Karama was brought into Ashdod on Tuesday by 
Israeli naval ships, Al Jazeera's Tony Birtley reported from the 
Israeli harbour.

"They apprehended the boat about 40km off the coast of Gaza. They 
[the Israelis] conducted what they called a "calm boarding". No 
violence, no resistance, everything was peaceful.

"Now, the activists are held in a building in the port where they are 
going through various interviews. Their boat is going to be 
thoroughly checked for weapons and cargo, which the Greek captain 
said he did not have on board.

"Then they will presumably be handed over to the Israeli immigration 
department and then presumably be deported," our correspondent said."

Earlier, Israeli naval vessels had told activists they would take 
control of the boat unless it left the area.

The Israeli navy had said it was in a dialogue with the activists on 
board in an attempt to dissuade them from continuing on their route.

"In accordance with Israel government directives, and as previously 
stressed, the Israel Navy will allow the organisers and passengers to 
re-track at any point, prior to the boarding of Israel Navy 
soldiers," the statement said.

The 17-passenger boat had declared an Egyptian port as its 
destination when it left Greek waters on Sunday, but activists on 
board later said they were redirecting towards the Gaza Strip and 
hoped to arrive by Tuesday afternoon.

"This 'little' boat symbolises the determination of the international 
solidarity movement to break the blockade on Gaza and express its 
support for the 1.6 million Palestinians imprisoned there since 
2007," a statement released from the boat said.

"We're cleaning ourselves up a little bit before arriving. Morale 
here is like the sky and sea - very good," wrote French activists on 
board, adding in English: "Gaza, off we go, stay connected!!!"

'Message of peace'

The boat was originally part of a 10-ship flotilla which had been due 
to sail for Gaza at the end of June.

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade since 2007 when the 
Palestinian group Hamas seized power in the territory. Israeli says 
the siege is intended to prevent Hamas from receiving arms and funds.

But Palestinians and their supporters consider the blockade illegal 
and say it has stunted the economic development of the territory, 
most of whose 1.5 million residents rely on aid to survive.

On Monday, Israeli deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon said Israel 
would prevent any attempt to breach the naval blockade on Gaza.

"If this boat is on its way to Gaza, which is a breach of 
international maritime law, and tries a provocative act - yes, we 
shall intercept it," he told reporters in Jerusalem.

"But I assure you we shall try our best to make those on board very 

Thomas Sommer-Houdeville, a French activist who spoke to the AFP news 
agency from on board the boat on Monday evening, said the vessel was 
only carrying a "symbolic message of peace and hope and love".

Israel, he said, had no reason to intercept it.

"We hope that they will not, we don't have a plan but we have a 
peaceful humanitarian mission. We are a peaceful boat flying a French 
flag," he said.

Hamas condemned the seizure with spokesman Ismail Rudwan describing 
it as "piracy, a war crime and a violation of the principles of human rights".

Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish activists when they stormed a 
Gaza-bound flotilla in the Mediterranean last year

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