(photo credit: Ron Friedman)
Twenty-four hours after the last ship from the Gaza protest flotilla entered Ashdod Port under the watchful eye of the Israel Navy, all of the equipment on board was examined, and a majority had been loaded onto trucks headed to the Kerem Shalom border crossing.
The flotilla’s flagship, the Mavi Marmara, where the battle between Israeli commandos and activists took place and which held the participants’ personal belongings, had yet to be fully inspected.
In a statement to reporters at the port on Tuesday, Col. Moshe Levi, commander of the IDF’s Gaza Strip Coordination and Liaison Administration, said that none of the equipment found on board the three cargo ships was in shortage in Gaza.
“We have been working non-stop for the last 24 hours, examining the cargo holds of the three large cargo ships, and I can say with great assurance that none of the equipment on board is needed in Gaza. The equipment that we found is all equipment that we have regularly allowed into the Strip over the past year,” Levi said.
“This proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the whole premise of the voyage was for propaganda and provocation and not for humanitarian purposes.”
Maj. David Elmaliach, also from the Coordination and Liaison Administration, said that no guns, rockets or explosives were found on any of the ships.
The three cargo ships were docked in Ashdod Port, guarded by soldiers and port security personnel.
Among the equipment that the IDF agreed to show reporters were medical supplies, including electric vehicles for handicapped people, wheelchairs, stretchers, hospital beds and boxes of medicine. The army also showed crates full of dry food products and toys.
Levi said that eight trucks full of equipment from the ships had already crossed into Gaza and that 20 more trucks would be transferred throughout the night and the following day.
The soldiers also found construction equipment, including sacks of concrete and metal rods. Levi said that Israel did not allow those products to enter the Gaza Strip for fear that they would be used to build fortifications for terrorists and to make weapons.
Gidi Gofer, head of the Defense Ministry’s international transport division, said the equipment in the cargo ships did not have proper transport manifests or any of the paperwork required to legally ship cargo by sea.
“The cargo did not meet international safety or operational standards,” he said.
Gofer explained that his job was to oversee the security inspection of
the cargo and that his team was doing this with the aid of bomb squads,
explosive-detecting dogs and X-ray machines.
“We are currently liaising with the Palestinian Authority so that they
will receive the approved equipment according to the agreed upon
procedures,” he said. “The illegal construction materials were removed
from the ships and will be held by us awaiting further instructions.”
Ashdod Port CEO Shuki Sagis said the port authorities had prepared to
accept the ships in advance of their arrival, and that under the
military’s supervision, they began unloading it on Monday evening.
“The cargo ships were loaded haphazardly, with all of the equipment
mixed up in the large holds. Ships loaded in this way would not be
accepted in any port. We are loading the equipment onto the trucks far
more carefully than it was loaded onto the ships,” Sagis said.