Gaza-bound Canadian boat "Tahrir".
(photo credit: Freedom Waves/Facebook)
IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz ordered the navy
to board the flotilla vessels "should they refuse radio requests," an IDF spokesperson said on Friday afternoon.
be unloaded at the Ashdod port and will be transferred into the Gaza
Strip via the legal land crossings," the spokesperson stated.
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.
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. The flotilla was heading
toward the area under closure, the navy said.
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 are 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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to flotilla organizers, Israel Navy ships are about 11
kilometers from their yachts, Israel Radio reported. The organizers
instructed the activists to not resist IDF forces should they be
An IDF spokesperson said on Friday the "Israel Navy is prepared to stop vessels attempting to break the maritime security blockade on Gaza."
to Army Radio, the IDF prepared itself on Friday morning
for the arrival of the Gaza-bound flotilla carrying about thirty
The United States warned on Thursday that the new effort by
pro-Palestinian activists to send the flotilla to challenge Israel's
blockade of the Gaza Strip was dangerous and urged US citizens not to
May 2010, nine Turkish activists, including one with dual US-Turkish
nationality, were killed in an Israeli raid on a similar convoy that
nearly ruptured ties between Turkey and Israel, both critical US allies
in the region.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said
Washington had been in touch with the Turkish government on Thursday
about the flotilla, and had also spoken to Israeli officials.
"My sense of this was that, given the way this came together there was
some element of surprise for both the Turkish government and our own
government," Nuland said.
She said the United States had sought clarification on news reports that
Turkish warships might be accompanying the flotilla and were told
"quite emphatically" by Turkey that this was not the case.
"We've been clear to them that we think that would be an extremely bad
idea and they've now reassured us that that is not what they are doing
in this case," she said.
Nuland repeated US warnings about earlier flotilla plans, saying that US
citizens who take part in efforts to deliver material support or other
resources to Hamas could face civil and criminal penalties. Hamas has
been officially designated as by the United States as a foreign
The activists on board the Canadian and Irish vessels came from
Australia, Canada, Ireland and the United States, and included
Palestinians and at least one Israeli Arab citizen, according to
organizers. Turkey has stressed that the vessels were not
Turkish-flagged, had no Turkish passengers and the captains were not