Government begins deporting Gaza flotilla activists

By REUTERS, JPOST.COM
November 5, 2011 13:53

One Israeli citizen from flotilla trying to break Gaza blockade released, foreign nationals board flights to home countries.

2 minute read.



IDF naval soldiers intercept Gaza-bound ship

IDF intercepts flotilla ship 311. (photo credit: IDF Spokesman's Office)

Authorities on Saturday began deporting pro-Palestinian activists who tried to breach the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

An Immigration Authority spokeswoman said two Greek citizens were flown home on Saturday and two journalists, one American and one Spanish, were to board flights on Sunday.



One Israeli citizen was released, as was an Egyptian woman who had crossed back to Egypt overnight, the spokeswoman said. Twenty one other activists were being held in custody in Israel and were awaiting deportation.


The Navy successfully boarded two Gaza-bound boats attempting to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip on Friday and lead them to Ashdod Port, the IDF spokesman's office said.

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The Canadian Tahrir and Irish Saoirse were boarded after they failed to heed Israeli instructions to stop their progress towards Gaza. According to the IDF, nobody was injured during the boarding of the boats.

The activists were turned over to police and immigration authorities upon their arrival at Ashdod.

As the two-boat Gaza flotilla approached the region, the Navy made first radio contact with the activists. The IDF informed the vessels that their current course was leading them toward a naval closure off the coast of Gaza, which is in line with international law.

The vessels were informed that they could turn around and prevent an infringement of the closure or head to a port in Egypt. The activists on board refused to heed the navy's call and refused to act in accordance with the instructions they were given.

IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz ordered the navy to board the flotilla vessels after they refused radio requests.



"Goods can be unloaded at the Ashdod port and will be transferred into the Gaza Strip via the legal land crossings," an IDF spokesperson stated.

Earlier on Friday activists tweeted they were "still heading for Gaza with the Saoirse" and that there had been no sign of the IDF yet.

"We are delighted to hear Palestinians in fishing boats are getting ready to welcome us," they said, adding that they were 70 miles [113 kilometers] from the shores of Gaza.

The activists set sail from Turkey on Wednesday aboard the Tahrir and Saoirse yachts carrying medical supplies. The Israeli military had said it would not permit them to breach its blockade.


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