Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Israel Navy intercepts sole remnant of flotilla heading for Gaza

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz ordered the Israel Navy on Tuesday to intercept the French yacht Dignite-Al Karame after it had refused to stop heading toward the Gaza shore.

Elite troops from Shayetet 13, a naval commando unit, boarded the vessel minutes after the IDF chief issued the order, and took it over quickly with no resistance on the part of the passengers.

When the Karame was some 50 miles away from Gaza, the Israel Navy began trailing the yacht and contacted the passengers on board, demanding they state their final destination and disclose if they are carrying any weapons.

A member of the Greek delegation to Gaza answered the questions and promised that they are not carrying any kind of weapons. He said their destination is the Gaza port.

An Israel Defense Forces official confirmed that the Israel Navy contacted the yacht, and warned it that it is nearing a blockaded area. Defense establishment sources stressed that they would not allow any kind of vessels to dock in the Gaza Strip, so any ship trying to break the blockade would be intercepted.

Following the quick interception of the vessel, the IDF sailed it to the Ashdod port where the passengers will be taken into police custody and handled by Israeli immigration authorities.

The IDF spokesperson stressed that the order to intercept the ship was issued only after the passengers repeatedly refused to answer the demands of the navy and stop sailing toward Gaza. According to the IDF spokesperson, none of the passengers were hurt and IDF soldiers offered the passengers food and beverages following the interception.

Greta Berlin of the Free Gaza Movement said the Dignite-Al Karame had previously declared Alexandria, Egypt, as its destination so it could slip out of Greece, and then changed its route to Gaza, saying it was a legal move.

Defense establishment sources said Sunday they expected no violent resistance from the 10 activists and three crew members aboard the Dignite-Al Karame, so its interception should be swift and smooth.