Hours after the Israeli Navy took over, without violent resistance, the ship “Estelle” which sought to reach Gaza to lift the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip – on Saturday night was moored in the port of Ashdod.
Israel is seeking the expulsion Sunday night via an expedited procedure of 27 foreign activists who were on board, while three Israeli activists were delivered to the Ashdod police on suspicion of attempting entry to an area barred by military. The three are expected to be remanded to their cells while police investigation continues..
A military source told Walla that, following an extensive search of the “Estelle,” no humanitarian supplies were found, which were supposedly being delivered to the people of Gaza. “This is a provocation that could have been prevented if they had passed the humanitarian supplies through legal crossings,” said the source.
Navy vessels took over the boat in the morning hours Saturday, while it was just 15 nautical miles from the Gaza coast. Ship activists, including Swedish civilians, past and present European members of parliament, and leftist activists Dror Feiler and Jonathan Shapiro, said that the ship was surrounded by Israeli forces in the morning, and, after a few hours, masked soldiers came were on board.
According to the IDF Spokesperson’s office: “Despite numerous calls to the passengers onboard, they remained unwilling to cooperate with Israeli authorities. After the passengers ignored calls to change course, the decision was made to board the vessel and lead it to the port of Ashdod.”
The statement continued: “The Israeli Navy soldiers operated as planned and took every precaution necessary to ensure the safety of the passengers. After the boarding of the vessel by IDF soldiers, who did not use force, the passengers were attended to and offered food and beverages.”
“The real criminal offenses have been made by those who kidnapped people in international waters and not by the activists,” said attorney Gaby Lasky, who represents the flotilla activists. “So it’s hard for me to believe that there are any grounds for an indictment, but on the contrary – there’s a civil case against the IDF. This was an illegal detention and we demand the release of all the activists immediately. Every attempt to stop the activists will be considered an act of intimidation to keep them from continuing their activities.”
She added: “It is puzzling to me that someone who himself is violating international law by taking over the ship outside of Israel’s territorial waters, is demanding to prosecute [my clients].”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the takeover and said that “even the people who were on the ship knew there was no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and their only goal was to create a provocation and to slander Israel.”
Netanyahu concluded: “If human rights were really important to them, they would be sailing to Syria. We will continue to protect our borders with intensity and determination.”
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