Israeli Navy Boards Gaza-bound Vessels Carrying Humanitarian Aid
November 5, 2011 Al Jazeera & The Telegraph
On November 2, two boats carrying 27 activists reached international waters of the eastern Mediterranean on their way towards the Gaza Strip, in the latest attempt to break Israeli's blockade of the territory. On November 5, Israeli naval forces boarded two boats -- the Canadian vessel "Tahrir" and the Irish boat "MV Saoirse" -- in international waters. The activists said the latest attempt was part of a campaign they call "freedom waves", implying that more such efforts will follow.
(November 4, 2011) -- This video, released by the Israel Defense Forces shows Israeli navy personnel boarding a Gaza bound flotilla vessel.
Aid Ships Head from Turkish Port to Gaza Al Jazeera
Click Here for maps of ships' locations and details on history and passengers.
MEDITERRANEAN SEA (November 2, 2011) -- Two boats carrying pro-Palestinian activists have reached international waters of the eastern Mediterranean and are making their way towards the Gaza Strip, in the latest attempt to break the Israeli blockade against the territory. The Tahrir, or Canadian Boat to Gaza, and the M V Saoirse, the Irish boat to Gaza, left the port of Fethiye in southwest Turkey on Wednesday after Turkish authorities gave them permission to sail to the Greek island of Rhodes.
The Turkish coast guard briefly escorted the ships before the Tahrir and Saoirse took a turn towards Gaza.
Al Jazeera's Casey Kauffman, on board one of the ships, said that, in total, it would be a 50-hour journey, and they were currently one fifth of the way there.
"Everyone on the boat wants to get to Gaza," he said, adding that while the activists are prepared for the possibility of an Israeli interception, the initiative will not be wasted. It will still bring attention to the situation in Gaza, and the blockade of the Gaza Strip."
The Israeli navy issued a statement saying it was prepared to contact the two vessels. "The Israel navy has completed the necessary preparations in order to prevent them from reaching the Gaza Strip," the statement said.
Sailing under the flag of the Comoros Islands, the Tahrir is carrying six activists, a captain and five journalists. The Saoirse -- sailing under the US flag -- has 12 Irish nationals on board, none of whom are journalists.
David Heap, a member of the steering committee on board the Tahrir, told Al Jazeera that the activists chose to leave from Fethiye because of the strained relations between Turkey and Israel. "The Turkish government has been creating more distance from Israel diplomatically and we know there is support from Turkish society for what we are doing. Our judgment was that the Turkish state would not interfere with us if we didn’t make too much of a public issue of our plan to depart from there," Heap told Al Jazeera.
It will take at least a couple of days before the boats reach the Palestinian waters of the Gaza Strip, where they expect to be approached by the Israeli navy.
"We have some distance to cover between where we are now and Palestinian territorial waters of Gaza. Obviously we are going to avoid going through Israeli territorial waters. Our plan is to go directly from international waters into the territorial waters of Gaza -- within a couple of days. We're not, at this point, going to state exactly when. We will choose our moment to what is favorable to what we are trying to do," Heap said.
The activists say the new attempt the break the siege on the Gaza Strip is part of a campaign they call "freedom waves", implying that more such efforts will follow.
Both ships were part of previous attempts to break the siege on the Gaza Strip that was stalled when the Greek government refused to let a flotilla leave from its shores in July this year. The Tahrir, the larger ship of the two, was intercepted by the Greek coast guard with more than 30 pro-Palestinian activists onboard. Two of them were detained for defying Greece's ban on setting sail to Gaza. The vessel was stopped about 10 minutes after it left port on the island of Crete.
The Irish boat allegedly suffered damage when it was sabotaged while waiting to join the flotilla from Turkish waters. The ship has since been repaired and kept in dry-dock in Turkey. Israeli Navy Boards Gaza-bound Vessels Al Jazeera
(November 5, 2011) -- Israeli naval forces have boarded two boats carrying pro-Palestinian activists bound for the Gaza Strip, foiling the latest attempt to break the four-year Israeli blockade of the territory.
The Canadian vessel Tahrir and the Irish boat MV Saoirse were in international waters, between 40 and 60 miles (64-96kms) from the coast, when they were intercepted on Friday, according to the Israeli military.
Al Jazeera's Casey Kauffman, reporting from aboard the Tahrir, earlier said three Israeli warships had contacted the boat's captain and were approaching it. The boat, then 80kms off the coast, had continued towards the Gaza Strip with the warships in pursuit, our correspondent said.
The Israeli military said the two vessels, carrying supplies and 27 people, were boarded peacefully after numerous calls to the activists to turn around.
"Following their unwillingness to co-operate, and after ignoring calls to divert to the port of Ashdod, the decision was made to board the vessels and lead them there," the military said in a statement.
In a press release issued by organisers shortly after they said they had lost contact with the two boats, David Heap, a member of the steering committee on board the Tahrir, said the fact the boats had reached international waters was a "victory for the movement".
Both vessels were part of previous attempts to break the siege on the Gaza Strip that was stalled when the Greek government refused to let a flotilla leave from its shores in July this year.
"We are closer to Gaza this time, and hope to get even closer the next time, until we reach our destination," said Heap.
"Despite economic blackmail, despite the previous outsourcing of the blockade to Greece, and despite Israel mobilising a significant portion of its navy to stop us, we are now even closer to reaching Gaza and breaking the blockade."
The activists said the latest attempt to break the siege was part of a campaign they call "freedom waves", implying that more such efforts will follow.
Upon arrival in Ashdod, the activists would be transferred to the custody of the Israeli police and immigration authorities, the military statement said.
Reporting from the port of Ashdod, Al Jazeera's Nicole Johnston noted Friday's events as "another failed attempt for the season of flotillas to Gaza.
"This attempt was a lot quiter. It left on Wednesday from Turkey. There was no great fanfare with it but again it didn't succeed in getting past the Israeli navy, and achieving its aim which was to symbolically break this four-year siege on Gaza," she said.
The two vessels left the port of Fethiye in southwest Turkey on Wednesday after Turkish authorities gave them permission to sail to the Greek island of Rhodes.
Early on Thursday morning, Al Jazeera's Kauffman reported that the activists viewed their attempt more as an expression of solidarity with besieged Gazans rather than an attempt to deliver aid.
"It will still bring attention to the situation in Gaza, and the blockade of the Gaza Strip," he said.
Sailing under the flag of the Comoros Islands, the Tahrir was carrying six activists, a captain and five journalists, including Al Jazeera's Kauffman.
The Saoirse - sailing under the US flag but carrying mostly Irish nationals - has 15 passengers on board, none of whom were journalists.
Heap told Al Jazeera that the activists chose to leave from Fethiye because of the strained relations between Turkey and Israel.
"The Turkish government has been creating more distance from Israel diplomatically and we know there is support from Turkish society for what we are doing.
"Our judgment was that the Turkish state would not interfere with us if we didn’t make too much of a public issue of our plan to depart from there," Heap told Al Jazeera. After Thwarting Flotilla, Israeli Navy Seizes Lone Gaza-Bound Ship Democracy Now!
(July 21, 2011) -- Earlier this week, three Israeli missile ships and seven commando boats intercepted a French ship attempting to reach the Gaza Strip. The ship, Dignité-Al Karama, was the sole representative of the original 10-strong international aid flotilla hoping to break the blockade on Gaza and express support for Palestinians living under occupation.
At least 150 soldiers were sent to sea early Tuesday morning to prevent the 10 civilian activists, the three crew members and the three journalists on the flotilla from reaching Gaza’s port. Fifteen passengers were arrested, prevented from seeing their lawyers, and sent for deportation.
Democracy Now! speaks with Ha’aretz correspondent Amira Hass, one of the few journalists who was aboard the ship. Hass is also the one of the only Israeli journalists to have spent several years living in and reporting from Gaza and the West Bank.
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