August 19, 2017

Israeli commandos board Gaza protest boat

The Dignite-al Karama getting a courtesy call from the Israeli Military. Getting a little crowded in here don't you think?

Israeli commandos have intercepted and boarded the Dignite-al Karamaa – a boat trying to breach Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The Dignite-al Karama, was part of Freedom Flotilla II – a 10-vessel flotilla, that has been trying to breach the blockade for several weeks. Dignite-al Karama was on her own at the time and was ordered to change course by the Israeli military.

The Israeli military said the boat had been boarded peacefully. It was later escorted into the Israeli port of Ashdod.

Maxime Guimberteau from A French Boat for Gaza said activists on board the Dignite-al Karama had told him they were 40 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza when the boat was surrounded by four Israeli navy ships. He said their conversation then cut off.

The Hamas government in Gaza condemned the takeover of the vessel.

An Israeli Defence Force statement said the Dignite-al Karama had been boarded “after all diplomatic channels had been exhausted and continuous calls to the vessel had been ignored”.

It said the navy had started a dialogue with the activists five hours earlier.

“Upon expressing their unwillingness to arrive at the Ashdod port, it was unequivocally necessary to board the vessel and lead it there,” the statement said.

“The soldiers operated in line with procedures and took every precaution necessary… to avoid causing harm to the activists on board while ensuring the safety of the soldiers.”

Hours later, the ship entered the port city of Ashdod flanked by three small Israeli naval vessels, witnesses said.

Israeli officials said those on board would be turned over to the Israel police, the immigration authority and the interior ministry at Ashdod.

In an earlier statement, the Israeli military said the aid could be delivered through existing land crossings without breaching the blockade.

From a neutral perspective, it is good to see the Israeli military not going over the top in halting the vessel. It is also good that the activists did not send the larger vessels in the fleet to make their point. Things may have got ugly again.

With the Egyptian crossing to Gaza open now, the blockade running attempts have taken on a purely political emphasis rather than the added element of humanitarian aid to Gaza.