The Israel Navy intercepted and commandeered a French-flagged ship called
Dignity on Tuesday after it tried breaking Israel’s seablockade over the Gaza
The ship, which set sail from Greece over the weekend – while
declaring Egypt as its destination – was not carrying any humanitarian aid.
There were 17 passengers aboard.
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Commandos from the Navy’s Flotilla 13 –
better known as the Shayetet – did not encounter resistance during the boarding
of the ship, said Deputy Navy Cmdr. R.- Adm. Rani Ben-Yehuda.
interception was restrained and carried out after a number of warnings that were
ignored by the passengers,” Ben-Yehuda said Tuesday afternoon as the Dignity was
taken to Ashdod Port.
Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz oversaw the
operation from the navy’s underground command center at the Kirya Military
Headquarters in Tel Aviv. OC Navy V.-Adm. Eliezer Maron was at sea with the
After boarding the ship, the commandos transferred the passengers
to a nearby navy vessel where they were all checked by an IDF doctor and given
food and water.
The passengers were subsequently met by Interior Ministry
representatives. Foreign Ministry officials said the non-Israeli passengers of
the yacht would be deported.
Those who don’t want to be deported will
have three days to appeal the order.
Also on the yacht was Dror
Feiler, a radical left-wing Israeli expatriate living in Sweden, who in 2004
created an art installation in Sweden called Snow White and the Madness of
Truth, which glorified Hanadi Jaradat, a Palestinian suicide bomber who killed
21 people in an attack at Maxim restaurant in Haifa.
There were also
three journalists on the vessel: two from Al Jazeera, and one from Haaretz.
Activists were offered the legal alternative of reaching Gaza through land
crossings, the IDF said.
The French Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, issued a
statement saying Israel informed the French government it had intercepted the
boat, which included 11 French citizens.
“We recommended a number of
times to our citizens not to take part – because of security risks – in the
flotilla, whose goals was to break the blockade of Gaza,” the statement
The statement also said the French Foreign Ministry informed the
Israeli authorities that if the boat did try to set sail for Gaza and was
stopped by the Israeli security authorities, that Paris expected “Israel to act
responsibly and with proportionality, respect the rights of our citizens, and
allow their quick return to France.”
Shurat HaDin-Israeli Law Center,
which has played a role in foiling the Gazabound flotilla through legal
measures, issued a statement Tuesday saying it filed suit with the Greek Coast
Guard against the ship because it falsely said when leaving Greece that its
destination was Alexandria, when it was actually Gaza. The suit was filed by
In addition, the organization said it would take legal
steps to try and seize the boat in Ashdod, based on legal action it started a
number of weeks ago in the US courts against vessels planning to take part in
the flotilla. Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.