Navy intercepts Gaza-bound French ship 'Dignity'

After crew of over a dozen pro-Palestinian activists refuses to divert course away from closed naval blockade of Gaza, IDF soldiers board, commandeer ship with no resistance.

July 19, 2011 13:02
2 minute read.
The French ship 'Dignity - Al-Karama'

French ship Dignity 311. (photo credit: IDF)


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The Israel Navy intercepted and commandeered a French-flagged ship called Dignity on Tuesday after it tried breaking Israel’s seablockade over the Gaza Strip.

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.

“The 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 forces.

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 read.

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 Greek lawyers.

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.

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