Navy intercepts Gaza-bound boats

Flotilla boarded after activists refuse military's calls to stop their progress towards Gaza; Navy escorts ships to Ashdod Port.

IDF intercepts flotilla ship 311 (photo credit: IDF Spokesman's Office)
IDF intercepts flotilla ship 311
(photo credit: IDF Spokesman's Office)
The navy on Friday intercepted without incident a small Gaza-bound flotilla carrying 27 pro-Palestinian activists.
The Canadian Tahrir vessel and Irish Saoirse boat were boarded after they failed to heed instructions to stop their progress toward the Gaza Strip, and ignored radio calls informing them that they were heading to a closed naval zone where a legal blockade was in place.
Authorities on Saturday began deporting the activists to their home countries, with the exception of those who asked to appear before a court and argue their case for remaining in the country.
By Saturday evening, two Greeks were flown home. Two journalists – one American and one Spanish, were scheduled to board flights out of the country on Sunday.
An Israeli Arab from the Galilee was released by police in Ashdod after being questioned, as was an Egyptian woman who returned to her country overnight on Saturday. Twentyone other activists are being held in custody pending deportation.
The activists, who came from Ireland, Canada, Greece, Australia, Scotland, the US, Spain and Morocco, were turned over to police and immigration authorities upon their arrival at Ashdod Port on Friday.
The IDF announced on Saturday night that they would inspect the contents of the ship and any humanitarian aid would be passed on through the proper channels to Gaza.
Earlier on Friday, while they were still at sea, the IDF informed the activists that their course was leading them toward a naval closure off the coast of Gaza that was in place due to security reasons and was backed by international law.
The vessels were informed that they could turn around or head to a port in Egypt.
IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz ordered the navy to board the boats after the requests were ignored.
The activists called their flotilla “Freedom Waves to Gaza.”
Before the navy’s interception, Canadian organizer Ehab Lotayef, speaking from one of the vessels, said the activists had “the wind of public opinion at our back and in our sails, which strengthens our resolve and determination to challenge the illegal blockade of Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants,” according to the Palestinian Spring blog.
On May 31 2010, Israel Navy commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara ship headed to break the blockade of Gaza. The incident resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish activists.