Israeli naval commandos seized control of a French boat that was en route to protest Israeli’s blockage of the Gaza strip Tuesday.
After ignoring military warnings, the Dignite Al-Karama was surrounded by four Israeli Navy ships and reportedly peacefully boarded, then towed toward the Israeli port of Ashdod.
The boat, the Dignite Al-Karama, was the only one among ten others that continued the pro-Palestinian activist movement to breach the blockade. The Israeli Defense Force released a statement to explain the takeover of the boat, saying it happened “after all diplomatic channels had been exhausted and continuous calls to the vessel were ignored.”
The Israeli Defense Force also stated, “Upon expressing their unwillingness to arrive at the Ashdod port, it was unequivocally necessary to board the boat and lead it there.”
The Dignite Al-Karama is part of Freedom Flotilla II, an organization that has been trying to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza since June. Flotilla members are contesting what they call the “unlawful blockade” of Gaza by Israelis.
Flotilla II members aboard the Dignite Al-Karama will be turned over to the Immigration and Population Authority and the Interior Ministry at Ashdod, Israeli Defense Force indicates.
Aboard the Dignite Al-Karama was Thomas Sommer-Houdeville, a French activist, who told AFP news on Monday that the boat was only carrying a “symbolic message of peace and love and hope.”
He said that Israelis had no reason to capture it.
“We hope that they will not (capture the boat), we don’t have a plan but we have a peaceful humanitarian mission. We are a peaceful boat flying a French flag,” Sommer-Houdeville said.
The pro-Palestinian activist group’s twitter account indicates that the Israeli navy asked for their location, which they gave, and then were flanked by four navy ships.
The nine other Flotilla II boats were prevented from joining the Dignite Al-Karama. The Greek government says the ban was implemented to protect activists.
In 2010, nine Turkish members of the first Flotilla were killed by the Israeli navy after their boat was seized. Both sides claim the violence was in self-defense, and the incident resulted in the Israelis easing their blockade of Gaza. However, the naval embargo remains intact.
Israel implemented the embargo in an attempt to weaken the Hamas militant group, but critics say it was in vain; that they have only hurt the territory’s economy, punishing 1.6 million people that live there.
The land blockade has weakened, but restrictions remain on the importing of many necessary materials, including metal and cement, as the Israeli military say they could be converted into weaponry.