Israel Navy forces boarded a “humanitarian flotilla” bound for the Gaza Strip Wednesday and commandeered the ship to the port in Ashdod.
The Zaytouna-Olive was intercepted about 65 kilometers from Gaza without violence or any resistance from the 13 activists onboard, the army said. The delegation is led by 13 female activists, including 1976 Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire
Wednesday’s incident was the latest in a series of flotillas aimed at breaking through Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. In May, 2010, activists aboard the Mavi Marmara attacked IDF soldiers with iron poles and guns as the latter boarded the ship in order to prevent it from reaching the Gaza shore. More recently, last January Israeli forces intercepted a Swedish vessel bound for Gaza, Marianne. That group of activists included Israeli MK Basel Ghatas (Joint List) and ex-Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki.
In contrast, Wednesday’s operation concluded with no reports of injuries or property damage. The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said the Zaytouna-Olive was re-directed to port in Ashdod, arriving there Monday evening. The army added that participants in the protest would be ‘dealt with by relevant government officials.”
In contrast to previous missions, too, the current flotilla was aimed only to show moral support in Gaza and did not carry material goods.
Israel has blockaded the Gaza coast since 2007, about six months after Hamas seized power there. Israel says the maritime restriction is necessary in order to maintain control over the materials that enter the Strip, but the IDF Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Unit says that tens of thousands of tons of basic food aid is delivered to the Strip every month.