Israel Intercepts Ship, Prevents Activists From Reaching Gaza

A photo from a 2010 Israeli raid on a ship

Israel intercepted a ship carrying humanitarian supplies and Palestinian supporters that was initially heading to Gaza.

Israel intercepted the Marianne, the Swedish lead ship of the Freedom Flotilla, a group of activist-organized ships carrying supplies to Gaza in protest of an Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. Reports claim the ship was in international waters, according to the New York Times. A statement by the Israeli military stated that Israel intercepted the ship, searched it in open waters, and then led it to the port of Ashdod, approximately 18 miles northeast of the Gaza-Israeli border.

Haaretz reported that 20 activists were on board the ship Israel intercepted, including Israeli Knesset Member Basel Ghattas, Spanish Member of the European Parliament Ana Miranda Paz, and former Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki. The New York Times said several journalists were also on the ship.

The Freedom Flotilla is the latest in a series of attempts by activists to break an Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip.

In another incident in 2010, Israel intercepted a ship that was part of another protest flotilla heading to Gaza.

The Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship that carried activists from at least 50 countries, was attacked in open waters. According to the Guardian, masked Israeli commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara in the early hours of May 31 of that year. On-board live video cameras recorded the descent of Israeli troops from helicopters and the boarding of others from speed boats. At least 10 people were killed in the clashes between the passengers, who were armed with metal bars, sticks, and tables, and the well-armed Israeli commandos.

Turkish-Israeli relations deteriorated greatly after Israel intercepted and raided the Mavi Marmara as most of those killed aboard the ship were Turkish citizens, including U.S.-Turkish citizen Furkan Dogan, according to the Christian Science Monitor. Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman reported that Turkey withdrew its ambassador to Israel following the raid. Israel’s refusal to apologize to Ankara for the raid and deaths resulted in Turkey expelling the Israeli ambassador and diplomatic staff as Israel’s Ynet News mentioned.

The Israeli military said it will deport the Marianne ship activists after interrogating them. It also said Israel intercepted the ship “peacefully.”

A Swedish Freedom Flotilla website that was tracking the Marianne before Israel intercepted it has called the incident “an act of state piracy in the Mediterranean.”

“We have no reason to believe that Marianne’s capture was ‘uneventful,’ because the last time the IDF said something like that, in 2012, the people on board the “Estelle” were badly tasered and beaten with clubs. Back in 2010, ten passengers of Mavi Marmara were murdered by the IDF during a similar operation in international waters.”

Another incident occurred in 2012, when Israel intercepted a ship, the Estelle, that was carrying 30 European activists, according to the Guardian. Gaza Ark, another pro-Palestinian activist group, said the activists aboard the ship Israel intercepted were beaten with “excessive force.”

[Image via Wikimedia Commons]