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4 Nov, 2011 13:55

Israeli forces board Gaza-bound Irish-Canadian flotilla

Two small boats approaching the Gaza coast have been boarded by the Israeli Defense Force. The IDF Chief of Staff ordered the navy to board the vessels should they refuse radio requests.

Nobody was injured during the takeover, according to the Israeli military. They say the operation followed numerous attempts by the IDF to contact the activists onboard, but failed, as the latter showed “unwillingness to cooperate.”“Upon arrival of the vessels at the Ashdod port, the activists will be transferred to the custody of the Israel Police and immigration authorities in the Ministry of Interior,” the IDF informs.Earlier, the Israeli military notified the Freedomwaves vessels they should either return to their port of origin or sail to Egypt.

According to pro-Palestinian activists, they lost contact with their two ships, the Saoirse of Ireland and the Tahrir of Canada, trying to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza. That came after they were allegedly intercepted by Israeli navy vessels in international waters.In the meantime, the pro-Gaza activists’ website Ustogaza claims the Tahrir was interrogated, via radio, by the Israeli Navy on Friday morning. However, according to the site, when asked by the Israeli Navy for their destination, Canadian activist Ehab Lotayef replied, “The conscience of humanity.” When they repeated the question, asking for final destination, Lotayef said, “The betterment of mankind.”The two ships are said to be carrying 27 civilian passengers, medical supplies and letters of support for the people of Gaza. The Gaza-bound Freedomwaves boats’ reaching Gaza would have meant the violation of Israel’s naval blockade, maintained since June 2006. As Israel claims, it was established to prevent the transporting of weapons to the Iran-backed group Hamas, which rules the Gaza territory, and similar units. Their stance is that necessary supplies may be sent to Gaza overland.Israel’s navy has halted similar protest ships in the past, with nine Turkish activists killed in the deadliest incident last year.

Palestinian human rights activist Huwaida Arraf says the flotillas are especially important not because of what they carry, but because of what they represent – a need for change. “It’s a political problem, and therefore these flotillas are going to challenge that policy of this inhumane blocade,” Arraf told RT. “Its not enough to deliver aid and that’s certainly not what the people want. We need to change the policy that is leaving Palestinians in need of aid”. The lawyer also told RT that the upcoming vote on Palestine’s potential membership in the United Nations is more about the people’s rights rather than the country’s statehood. “Palestinians are looking for avenues by which to hold Israel accountable,” Arraf said.