MV Rachel Corrie boarded 311.
IDF forces piloted the Rachel Corrie
to the port of Ashdod early Saturday evening after boarding the ship
earlier in the day.
None were harmed in the military operation
as the international activists on the ship cooperated with the boarding
party. The activists went as far as lowering a ladder to the soldiers
patrol boat to allow them to board, army sources have revealed.
raids, closes NGO officesBlundering
into harm's way
boarding of the Rachel Corrie
containing activists and aid for Gaza
was described by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Saturday as a
quiet operation. Netanyahu was quick to distinguish between the boat of
Irish and Malaysian activists and the Turkish-sponsored Mavi Marmara
was boarded May 31 in an incident that left nine dead and scores
"The different outcome we saw today
difference between peace activists who we disagree with but respect
their right to express their different opinion and flotilla participants
[on the Mavi Marmara] who were violent extremist supporters of
terrorists," said Netanyahu.
forces boarded and took control of the MV Rachel Corrie Saturday afternoon. The troops did
not meet any resistance from activists attempting to break the Gaza
blockade, and the operation was completed without violent
The military said its forces boarded
the 1,200-ton cargo ship from the sea, not helicopters. Army spokeswoman
Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich said Saturday's takeover took only a few
minutes and that the vessel was being taken to Ashdod port.
Prior to the takeover, three navy ships tailed the aid
boat for several hours throughout the morning, a few dozen kilometers
from the blockaded Strip. The army said it had contacted the boat four
times and urged its passengers to divert to Ashdod, but the
The IDF had said that it would have no choice but to board
the ship if it did not agree to go to Ashdod.
Earlier reports had suggested that the Rachel Corrie had already
been boarded in the early morning, but the army and the boat’s
passenger’s later said this was not true.
ship was trying to breach the three-year-old blockade to deliver a load
of aid to the coastal territory.
"There were two
warships in the back of them ... and a smaller boat was approaching,"
said activist Greta Berlin of the Free Gaza movement, which sent the
ship. She was speaking from the movement's headquarters in Cyprus and
was citing a passenger on board.
said it had made contact with the boat and notified it that it was
approaching an area under blockade. The navy had told the Rachel Corrie that “The
Israeli government supports delivery of humanitarian supplies to the
civilian population in the Gaza Strip and invites you to enter the
Ashdod port. Delivery of the supplies … will be done via the formal land
crossings and under your observation."
on board the Irish boat insisted they would not resist if Israeli
soldiers tried to take over their vessel. They rejected Israeli
and US appeals to bring the ship to Ashdod.
Foreign Ministry director Yossi Gal told reporters Israel has "no
desire to board the ship. If the ship decides to sail to the port of
Ashdod, then we will ensure its safe arrival and will not board
This latest attempt to breach the blockade
differs significantly from the flotilla the army intercepted on Monday,
killing eight Turks and an American after being set upon by a group of
activists. Nearly 700 activists had joined that operation, most of them
aboard the lead boat from Turkey that was the scene of the violence.
That boat, the Mavi
Marmara, was sponsored by an Islamic aid group from Turkey,
the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedom and Humanitarian Relief.
Israel outlawed the group, known by its Turkish acronym IHH, in 2008
because of alleged ties to Hamas. By contrast, the Rachel Corrie was carrying
just 11 passengers, whose effort was mainly sponsored by the Free Gaza
movement, a Cyprus-based group that has renounced violence.
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