Contact has been lost with the Swedish boat Marianne, which had been leading the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla, after other boats turned back. The IDF announced that they intercepted and searched the vessel which had tried to “breach the maritime blockade.”
The Freedom Flotilla Coalition lost contact with the flagship of the flotilla at 10:57pm GMT, the organization said. The vessel was some 100 nautical miles from its destination when it happened.
Israel is maintaining its naval blockade of Gaza according to international law, as confirmed by the US Secretary General, said Israeli Foreign Affairs deputy spokesman, Oren Rozenblat.
The Israeli navy has engaged the vessel, boarded and searched it, the Israeli Defense Forces’ spokesman Peter Lerner confirmed. He said the Marianne is now being escorted to Ashdod Port after ignoring “repeated appeals to change course.”
However, the organizers of the flotilla have reasons to believe that the engagement was not as uneventful and non-violent as the navy claims, and that some people on board “might be hurt.”
“There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza whatsoever,” claimed the official, commenting on the Israeli prime minister’s office sarcastically proposing the flotilla head for Syria instead.
However, the European activists against Gaza siege don’t agree with the Israeli official. Rami Abdo, one of the campaigners, says ‘the situation on the ground is dire.’
Meanwhile, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has praised the navy personnel “for their determined and efficient” actions that allowed for the maintenance of the the blockade.
“This flotilla is nothing but a demonstration of hypocrisy and lies that is only assisting the Hamas terrorist organization and ignores all of the horrors in our region,” Netanyahu said. “We are not prepared to accept the entry of war materiel [in] to the terrorist organizations in Gaza as has been done by sea in the past.”
“Israel is the only democracy that defends itself in accordance with international law,” Netanyahu was cited as saying in an issued statement.
The four vessels which departed from various ports on Saturday attempted to break the eight-year long Palestinian blockade, a news release on the campaign’s official webpage said. This time, some 70 people were on board, including former Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki and Spanish MEP Ana Maria Miranda Paza.
In 2010, a similar attempt to break the blockade with the “Freedom Flotilla” ended in bloodshed. Israeli troops then boarded a Gaza-bound vessel in international waters. Nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed.
In 2011, a report by a UN investigative committee implied that Israel has the right to stop Gaza-bound vessels, The Times of Israel reported. On Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he believed “a flotilla will not help to address the dire situation in Gaza,” but urged Israel to “lift all closures, with due consideration of Israel’s legitimate security concerns.”