ISRAELI gunboats intercepted an aid ship bound for the besieged Gaza Strip yesterday, forcing it to divert to an Israeli port.Israeli forces surrounded and boarded the Swedish converted trawler Marianne in international waters.
The three other vessels in the flotilla received a distress call from the crew of the Marianne at about 2am that three Israeli gunboats had surrounded her about 100 nautical miles off Gaza. They then lost contact with the trawler.
Just after 5am the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) announced that they had “visited and searched” the Marianne and detained everyone on board.
The ship was carrying about 20 passengers including including Israeli MP Basel Ghattas, former Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki and Russia Today reporter Nadezhda Kevorkova.
The Israeli military claimed that the boarding was peaceful, but the aid group pointed out that Israel had acted against maritime law, recalling the IDF’s 2010 slaughter of nine campaigners on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara and the tasering and beating of others on the Estelle.
Freedom Flotilla spokesman in Athens Petros Stergiou said: “Once again, the Israeli state commits an act of state piracy in the Mediterranean Sea.”
He added that the group would continue its acts of protest until the blockade of Gaza was lifted.
“The government continues this policy of non-tolerance, which means that it will continue to enforce the collective punishment against the 1.8 million people in Gaza,” he said.
The group called on the governments of the crew and passengers’ home countries to ensure they were safe.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched a tirade against the aid group, blustering: “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.”
Mr Netanyahu went further, implying that the flotilla’s cargo of medical equipment and solar panels was of a military nature.
“We are not prepared to accept the entry of war material to the terrorist organisations in Gaza, as has been done by sea in the past,” he said.