Flotilla Trying to Breach Gaza Blockade Stopped by Israeli Navy

YERUSHALAYIM (AP/Hamodia) -
Palestinians ride a boat as they take part in a rally to show solidarity with a Gaza-bound flotilla of international activists attempting to break the Gaza’s blockade, at the Seaport of Gaza City in 2016. (Reuters/Mohammed Salem)

Israel’s navy intercepted a ship carrying activists en route to Gaza in the latest attempt to break a blockade on the coastal territory ruled by the Hamas terror group, the IDF said Sunday.

It said the passengers were notified they were “violating the legal naval blockade” and that humanitarian aid can be delivered to Gaza in other ways. It said the incident passed “without exceptional events” and that the ship is being taken to an Israeli port.

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition, an umbrella group comprising pro-Palestinian and Islamic groups from around the world, said that there were activists from 14 countries, mainly from Europe but also Malaysia, the U.S. and Israel, on the ship carrying 100 boxes of medical aid for Gaza. It said in a statement the supplies are “a small but important contribution to the increasingly dire medical situation” in Gaza. “In the long term, the only solution is ending the blockade,” it said.

Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza after Hamas took over the territory in 2007.

The seized ship, the Al-Awda (Return), was one of two vessels that attempted to break the blockade. The other ship, Freedom, has not yet approached the blockade.

“The forces made it clear to the boat that it was violating the blockade and that any humanitarian supplies [it is carrying] can be delivered to Gaza through the port of Ashdod,” the IDF said. “The activity ended without any unusual incidents. The boat is being towed to the port of Ashdod at this time.”

The flotilla set sail from Copenhagen, Denmark, and saw the ships stopping off at several European ports to take part in activities supporting the Palestinians’ so-called “March of Return.”

There have been previous attempts to break the naval blockade on Gaza. The most notable was the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla, in which nine Turkish provocateurs were killed as they ignored Israeli calls to turn the vessel around and dock at the Ashdod Port.

After inspection, it was discovered that there was no humanitarian aid whatsoever aboard the Marmara despite the claims otherwise.

The IDF has said many times that the Gaza sea blockade “is required for the security of Israel, which has a right, according to international law and the United Nations, to protect its borders. The blockade protects against the smuggling of dangerous weapons by terrorists into Gaza. The IDF will continue to defend Israel’s water borders and its citizens.”