A four-ship flotilla to Gaza has become a three-ship pleasure cruise and round trip, after the IDF stopped and boarded the lead boat on its way to Gaza. The boarding, unlike one a few years ago, was peaceful, and the IDF has commandeered the boat to the Israeli port of Ashdod after finding humanitarian supplies on board — which would have gone to Gaza through either Israel or Egypt anyway. The flotilla wanted to protest the Israeli blockade on Gaza, a blockade that should have made a lot more sense to outside observers after the war Hamas launched last summer on Israel. The other three ships turned around and went back to their port of origin:
Israeli naval commandos intercepted a protest ship at sea bound for Gaza on Monday and diverted the vessel toward a port in Israel. The Israelis said no one was injured in the operation.
The Swedish-registered Marianne of Gothenburg was attempting to enter Israeli-controlled waters in the Mediterranean Sea and deliver aid packages to Gaza. Aboard were crew, journalists and activists, including Israeli Arabparliamentarian Basel Ghattas and former Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki.
The activists were protesting Israel’s maritime blockade against the coastal enclave.
Israel maintains a complete air and sea blockade of Gaza and a partial blockade of goods and people through two land crossings. Israel forbids Gaza to have an airport or seaport, except a small fishing harbor. Gaza fishermen are restricted to venture no more than a few nautical miles from shore.
Other ships have attempted similar runs to beat the blockade, including a Turkish-organized vessel in 2010 that was intercepted at sea by Israeli commandos in a raid that left nine activists dead and soured once-close relations between Israel and Turkey.
EuroNews had a correspondent on board, and reports on the interception:
Benjamin Netanyahu had a greeting prepared for them, delivered by the commandoes when they boarded the lead ship. “It seems you got lost,” the Israeli Prime Minister told the voyagers, suggesting that they may want to offer some humanitarian assistance to the Syrians instead, where the Assad regime murders its own people on a regular basis. “By the way,” Netanyahu points out, “the volume of equipment that has been sent from Israel to Gaza is more than 500,000 times larger than the your boats that you are arriving on,” and adds that they could have sent their humanitarian aid through Israel at any time (via Jeff Dunetz):
Welcome to Israel!
It seems you got lost. Perhaps you meant to sail to a place not far from here – Syria. There the Assad regime slaughters his people every day with the support of the murderous Iranian regime.
Despite that, here in Israel we are dealing with a situation where terror organizations, such as Hamas, are attempting to harm innocent civilians. Against attempts like these we are defending the citizens of Israel in accordance with international law.
Despite that, Israel assists with the transport of humanitarian supplies to Gaza – 800 truckloads a day, more than 1.6 million tons of supplies this past year. The equivalent of 1 ton per resident of Gaza.
By the way, the volume of equipment that has been sent from Israel to Gaza is more than 500,000 times larger than the your boats that you are arriving on.
Israel assists in hundreds of humanitarian projects via international organization including the establishment of medical clinics and hospitals.
But we are not willing to allow in weapons to the terrorist organizations in Gaza, as they have tried to do in the past, by sea.
Just a year ago, we stopped an attempt to bring in hundreds of weapons by sea, that were meant to harm innocent civilians.
There’s no closure on Gaza, and you are welcome to to transport, via Israel, any humanitarian supplies.
The sea blockade is in accordance with international law, and has received backing from the UN Secretary General.
If human rights were truly important to you, you wouldn’t be sailing in solidarity with a terror regime that executes, without trial, residents of Gaza, and uses the children of Gaza as human shields.
If you were to come to Israel you would be able to be impressed by the only democracy in the Middle East that is concerned with equality for all its citizens, and freedom of religion for all faiths. A state that operates in accordance with international law in order to provide its residents a secure life and its children to grow up in peace and serenity.
Think they’ll go to Syria next time, where people are truly being oppressed by a murderous regime? Naaaaah. It’s more politically correct — and a lot safer — to tweak Israel than it is to save lives where someone might actually shoot at you.