'Israel Navy preparing to take over Gaza-bound French ship'
ByYaakov Katz, JPOST.COM STAFF
July 19, 2011 12:20
After making radio contact, navy negotiating with activists aboard 'Dignity' to divert course away from naval blockade; activists say 4 vessels closely following; navy offers activists use of land crossings.
Israel Navy ships 311.
The Israel Navy has warned pro-Palestinian activists aboard the Gaza-bound French ship Dignity - Al-Karama
that soldiers are preparing to board the yacht, Israel Radio reported.
The navy made initial radio contact with the vessel in an attempt to persuade its crew to revert their course and not attempt to enter the
closed naval blockade of the Strip, the IDF
Spokesperson said in a statement.
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"We are getting ready to board the ship, we'll do it calmly," an Israel Radio reporter aboard the ship reported the navy as saying.
Activists were offered the legal alternative of
reaching Gaza through land crossings, the IDF added.
Three navy ships were on the yacht's left side and another on the right side, activists reported.
departing from Egypt's Port Said in the direction of Gaza shortly after
6 a.m. on Tuesday, the activists expected to reach Gaza by noon,
Israeli-Swedish passenger Dror Feiler said, unless they were stopped by the
A defense official on Monday said that the navy was preparing to stop the ship before it reaches the Strip.
The Dignity is carrying
17 pro-Palestinian activists. It was part of the Free Gaza Movement’s flotilla
that was canceled earlier this month after Greece refused to allow the ships to
leave its ports for the Gaza Strip.
On Sunday, the ship left Greek waters
after declaring Alexandria as its destination. According to Free Gaza,
its passengers include Jacqueline Le Corre, a member of the French Communist
Party, Jean-Claude Lefort, a former French Member of the European Parliament,
and Haaretz correspondent Amira Hass.
While the organizers did not
explicitly declare that the ship would sail to Gaza, they said that it was part
of the “first wave that will be followed by others.”
“It is a message to
the Israeli government, to the international community and to the besieged
people of Gaza: The Free Gaza Movement and the coalition of Freedom Flotilla II
are not giving up until the inhumane and illegitimate blockade of Gaza is
lifted,” the movement said in a press release.
Deputy Foreign Minister
Danny Ayalon said that Israel would stop the vessel.
“If this boat is on
its way to Gaza, which is a breach of international maritime law...we
will intercept it,” he said. “But I assure you that we will try our best
to make all those on board very comfortable.”
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