Members of Gaza flotilla detained and issued deportation notices

The Zaytouna-Olivia, which set sail from Barcelona in September was seized by the Israeli Navy around 35 nautical miles off the coast of the Gaza Strip Wednesday evening.

October 6, 2016 19:25
2 minute read.
Gaza flotilla

Activists aboard a flotilla to Gaza [file]. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Eleven of the 13 women who were aboard the Zaytouna-Olivia all-female Gaza-bound protest boat were sent to Givon Prison and issued deportation orders on Wednesday, while two Al Jazeera journalists were deported immediately.

The Zaytouna-Olivia, which set sail from Barcelona in September, was seized by the Israeli Navy around 35 nautical miles off the coast of the Gaza Strip on Wednesday evening and towed to Ashdod Port without incident, the IDF said on Wednesday. There were no injuries in the operation. The two journalists deported were Mina Harballou and Khadija Benguena.

Muna Haddad, a lawyer with the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, is representing four of the 11 women, including Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Maguire. According to Haddad, the detention and deportation orders are illegal.

“The woman were part of a humanitarian journey to help deal with the difficulties the people and women of Gaza face,” she said. “The Israeli military illegally forced the boat arrive into Israel 35 nautical miles [from the coast], outside the zone that the IDF has declared for its blockade.” The other seven women are being represented by Attorney Gabi Lasky.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon reiterated to The Jerusalem Post the Israeli stance that the seizure of Gazabound protest vessels is legal if there is “a clear intention to breach the blockade.”

Haddad said the women are requesting to be immediately returned to their countries of origin and are protesting their detentions as illegal. They also object to an Israeli ban on the women from entering Israel for 10 years.

Yehudit Ilani, a spokeswoman for MK Haneen Zoabi, was on the protest boat for about a week, but left it in September.

Ilani said the boat was a peaceful mission to focus international attention on the Gaza blockade and the humanitarian situation in the Strip. “There was a huge amount of attention and [the intention was] to hear the voices of the people of Gaza, especially the women of Gaza. We are making sure that Gaza stays in the world’s focus,” stated Ilani, who does not represent Zoabi in her affiliation with the protest.

Zoabi was on the Mavi Marmara protest ship in 2010, when Israel Navy commandos landed on the ship, were attacked, and killed nine Turkish attackers. A 10th died three years later from his injuries.

The Israel Navy sent both female and male combat personnel to commandeer the protest boat. In a statement on Wednesday, the IDF said “the takeover process was short and without casualties.”

Ilani said IDF measures to treat the protesters humanely, including the use of female personnel, would have no great affect on the protest movement.

“It doesn’t matter, even if the IDF came with truck loads of flowers – the very act [of taking over the boat] is illegal,” she stated.

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