Naval vessels towed the Swedish boat Marianne av Göteborg into Ashdod's port on Monday, where it was expected to arrive late Monday night after commandos interdicted it without incident some 85 nautical miles off the Gaza Strip Coast less than 24-hours earlier.This “flotilla,” which managed to garner headlines in Israel over the last few days but was not a major story overseas, ended with a whimper as three other vessels that set sail from Crete to accompany the boat and document its journey turned back after the Marianne, with its 18 passengers, was stopped and boarded.Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, who called the operation a "success," said the Navy had to tow the vessel because the passengers on board sabotaged the engine after IDF soldiers boarded.The passengers on board will be question in Ashdod, and the foreigners will then be deported, he said.
"There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza," Ya'alon said, adding that he was not saying the situation there was either easy or simple. "This was a provocation." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement commending the Navy for its “determined and efficient action.”“This flotilla is nothing but a demonstration of hypocrisy and lies that is only assisting Hamas and ignores all of the horrors in our region,” he said, adding that a panel established by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon determined that Israel's blockade of Gaza is lawful.“Israel is a democracy that defends itself in accordance with international law,” he said. “We are not prepared to accept the entry of war matériel to the terrorist organizations in Gaza as has been done by sea in the past.”He stressed that there was no “siege” of Gaza, and that Israel assists in the transferring of thousands of tons of goods, material and humanitarian aid to Gaza on a daily basis. The IDF spokesperson issued a statement early Monday morning saying that upon receiving orders from the political echelon and after diplomatic efforts failed to get the ship to alter its course, naval commandos from the Shayetet 13 boarded it.Among the “Marianna's” passengers were MK Basel Ghattas (Joint Arab List) and former Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki. Several of the remaining passengers were journalists, according to a list published by the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, the group which organized the flotilla.The group said Monday that around 2:00am the Marianne contacted them and told them that three Israel Navy boats surrounded them in international waters some 100 nautical miles from the Gaza coast. The Freedom Flotilla Coalition said they then lost contact with the vessel, and that the next word they received was three hours later when the IDF announced that the boat had been stopped.
Netanyahu: "Hypocrisy" of flotilla participants only aides Hamas