Home > Cyprus, France, Gaza, Israel, Turkey, United Kingdom > Israel intercepts Gaza aid ship peacefully as more flotillas are being chartered

Israel intercepts Gaza aid ship peacefully as more flotillas are being chartered

(WJC)–Israel on Saturday peacefully intercepted a Gaza-bound aid ship with 19 pro-Palestinian activists on board and towed it into the Israeli port of Ashdod. Israeli Navy forces boarded the Irish-owned ship ‘Rachel Corrie’ (pictured) from the sea, rather than by helicopters. The activists on board, including Irish Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire and a Malaysian parliamentarian, all agreed to be deported, according to the Israeli Interior Ministry.

The ship was carrying hundreds of tons of concrete, as well as tons of paper and wheelchairs. Israel began calling to the ship last Friday asking that it go to the Ashdod port and allow a non-governmental agency to inspect its contacts and take its cargo, including the cement, to Gaza. Cement has been barred from Gaza by Israel’s blockade out of fear that it would be used to build bunkers for Hamas terrorists.

“Yesterday, the entire world saw the difference between a humanitarian flotilla and a hate flotilla by violent, terrorism-supporting extremists,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday at the start of the Cabinet meeting.

The German organization ‘Jewish Voice for Peace in the Middle East’ is reportedly preparing a Jewish flotilla to the Gaza Strip. “We intend to leave around July,” a member of the organization, Kate Leitrer, told the Israeli news service ‘Ynet’. “We have one small craft so far, in which there will be between 12 and 16 people, mostly Jews.”

The Iranian Red Crescent humanitarian organization, which is part of the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent, has announced that it is planning to send two ships with humanitarian aid to Gaza this week. The French news agency AFP quoted an Iranian Red Crescent director as saying: “One ship will carry donations made by the people, and the other will carry relief workers. The ships will be sent to Gaza by end of this week.”

Meanwhile, Egyptian authorities turned down a request by Arab physicians to bring aid into the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing. A leader of Hamas – which controls the territory since 2007 – said a delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross would not be permitted to visit the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is held in Gaza since June 2006.

The foreign ministers of Britain and France, William Hague and Bernard Kouchner, suggested that Europe take responsibility for oversight of materials entering Gaza arriving by sea. They also called on Israel to conduct a credible and transparent investigation into last week’s flotilla raid, in which nine people were killed. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called on Israel to accept an international probe as proposed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “Otherwise it means that they have something to hide,” Davutoglu said.

Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, rejected an international commission. “We are discussing with the Obama administration a way in which our inquiry will take place,” he told the US television network ‘Fox News’. A formal decision by the Israeli government on an inquiry into the raid has yet to be taken.

Last week, two French activists who were aboard the Gaza-bound flotilla last week have filed legal complaints, charging Israel with “abduction”, “violence with weapons” and “rerouting a vessel” in international waters. The cases were filed in the two activists’ hometowns of Marseille and Evry, south of Paris. One of the two told journalists that filing in French courts would send a “politically significant” message and test France’s willingness to uncover what led to the deaths of nine pro-Palestinian militants on board last week’s Gaza-bound flotilla. Once a complaint is filed, French judges could then decide whether or not to seek arbitration from the International Criminal Court.

During a visit to Cyprus, Pope Benedict XVI called for “an urgent and concerted international effort to resolve the ongoing tensions in the Middle East, especially before such conflicts lead to greater bloodshed.”

Over the weekend, demonstrators in major cities across the US and other countries held rallies in support of Israel. In Los Angeles, California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger attended a demonstration. He spoke on the phone to Gilad Shalit’s father Noam. Standing behind a giant banner with the words ‘LA Supports Israel’, Schwarzenegger spoke of his longtime support for Israel, “going way back into my bodybuilding and showbiz days.”

On Monday, four Palestinians were killed when Israeli naval commandos opened fire on what they said was a squad of terrorists in diving suits off the coast of Gaza. The Palestinians “were on their way to carry out an attack in Israel”, an IDF spokesman said. The Al-Aqsa Martys Brigade, a Fatah-linked terror group, said the men killed were members of its marine unit, who were training.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

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