Israel intercepts civilian vessel delivering Gaza aid

Israeli forces commandeer vessel shortly after captain reports surveillance by unidentified military ship and plane

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Israeli soldiers have boarded and commandeered the Marianne, a naval vessel in the Freedom Flotilla III, 100 nautical miles from Gaza’s shores.

The ship, filled with activists and aid attempting to break the nine year blockade of the Palestinian enclave, was taken to the Israeli city of Ashdod.

The Israeli military released a statement on early Monday saying that no force was used in redirecting the vessel.

Petros Stergiou, a spokesperson for the Freedom Flotilla group, told Al Jazeera that all contact with the Marianne was lost around in the morning as three Israeli military boats descended on the vessel.

"What we learned is that the Israeli navy attacked the Marianne around 100 nautical miles from the shore of Gaza," he said.

"They said they could see three military boats approaching them that had identified themselves as being military."

"Once again, the Israeli government and its military has acted like state pirates and attacked our boat in international waters."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commended the Israeli Navy’s actions, saying that "This flotilla is nothing but a demonstration of hypocrisy and lies that is only assisting the Hamas terrorist organisation and ignores all of the horrors in our region."

The arrest came just hours after the Marianne announced that it was being tailed by an unknown military vessel and a military surveillance craft its crewmembers were unable to identify.

The attack on the Marianne was reminiscent of that on the Turkish civilian vessel the Mavi Marmara, which took part in the first Freedom Flotilla in 2010.

On May 31, 2010, the Mavi Marmara - a Turkish civilian vessel carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip - was boarded by Israeli paratroopers in international waters. The Israeli soldiers opened fire with live ammunition on those on the ship, killing nine activists on board with a tenth activist later dying due to his wounds.

Following the attack on the Mavi Marmara and other vessels in the first Freedom Flotilla, there was an international outcry, with an second flotilla also attempting to deliver humanitarian aid seized by the Israeli military.

The third and latest flotilla includes 50 activists, journalists, artists and political figures including Dr. Basel Ghattas, a member of the Israeli Knesset, and Dr. Moncef Marzouki, the former President of Tunisia.

Members of the Spanish, Jordanian, Greek and Algerian parliaments are accompanied by European Parliament members aboard the ships, while many media outlets including Al Jazeera, Euronews and Russia Today are offering continuous coverage from aboard the ships.

The Freedom Flotilla III was organised by a team of international activists aiming to break the 9-year-long Israeli blockade of Gaza for the third time.

TRTWorld and agencies