The Israeli Navy intercepted a Gaza-bound flotilla overnight Sunday-Monday meant to break the maritime blockade on the Strip.
Israeli commandos boarded the main ship, the Swedish registered Marianne of Gothenburg, and took control of the vessel. The IDF said the interception occurred without an incident or injuries.
Three of the four “Freedom Flotilla III” vessels turned back unexpectedly, with activists on board saying in a statement, “We once again call on the government of Israel to finally lift the blockade on Gaza. Our destination remains the conscience of humanity.”
The Marianne is being towed to the Ashdod port by a naval patrol, after which activists on board the ship will most likely be deported.
“In accordance with international law, the Israeli Navy advised the vessel several times to change course,” the IDF confirmed in a statement. “Following their refusal, forces visited and searched the vessel in international waters in order to prevent the intended breach of the maritime blockade on the Gaza Strip.”
“The forces have reported that use of force was unnecessary, and that the process was uneventful. The vessel is currently being escorted to Ashdod Port and is expected to arrive within 12-24 hours,” the statement added.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed naval commandos for “their determined and efficient action in detaining the passengers on the ship that tried to reach the Gaza coast in contravention of the law.”
In a statement released to the media, the prime minister added, “This flotilla is nothing but a demonstration of hypocrisy and lies that is only assisting the Hamas terrorist organization and ignores all of the horrors in our region. Preventing entry by sea was done in accordance with international law and even received backing from a committee of the UN Secretary General.”
On board the Marianne were 18 activists, including former Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki and Arab MK Basel Ghattas. A Channel 2 reported on sailing on the Marianne said the activists vowed to use “passive resistance” when boarded by the IDF.
— Freedom Flotilla (@GazaFFlotilla) June 29, 2015
On Sunday, Netanyahu’s office released a special letter for the flotilla activists, calling out the group’s hypocrisy.
“Welcome to Israel!” the letter read. “It appears you’ve made a mistake along the way. Perhaps you meant to sail somewhere not far from here — Syria. There, Assad’s regime is massacring his own people every day with the help of the murderous Iranian regime.”
“In contrast, here in Israel, we are dealing with a situation where terrorist organizations such as Hamas are trying to harm innocent civilians. In the face of these attempts, we are protecting the citizens of Israel in accordance with international law,” the letter added.
“If human rights really interested you, you wouldn’t sail in solidarity with a terror group that executes Gazans without trial, and uses Gazan children as human shields.”