The Navy on Saturday took over the Irish-owned Rachel Corrie aid vessel, which was seeking to break the siege imposed on Gaza and deliver humanitarian aid to the Strip's resident. There were no injuries in the operation.
"What happened today is the difference between peace activists and murders," an Israel Defense Forces official said.
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An organization related to the sail posted a Twitter message saying that the ship was forcibly seized by the Israeli Navy and was being transported to Ashdod. The message added that all of the passengers were safe and sound. The IDF later confirmed the quiet takeover.
Army officials said that no force or fire were used during the takeover of the Rachel Corrie aid vessel. "This sail had no plans to hurt the soldiers," one of the sources said.
Navy Commander Eliezer Marom oversaw all stages of the operation.
The IDF reported that the ship was being transported to the Ashdod Port, where its crew and passengers would be turned over to the authorized authorities and the goods on board would undergo a security check before being transferred to Gaza. It is still unclear what will be done with the cement on the ship, as Israel prohibits the entry of construction materials to Gaza.
According to the IDF Spokesperson's Office, before the takeover the ship was told: "This is the Israeli Navy. You are approaching an area of hostility, which is subject to a naval blockade. The Gaza area, the coastal region and the Gaza harbor are closed to all maritime traffic… You are hereby requested to change your course and refrain from entering the area. I repeat: Delivery of humanitarian supplies to the civilian population in the Gaza Strip is possible, through formal land crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip, subject to prior coordination with the Israeli authorities."
The ship's passengers, the IDF said, chose to ignore the order given to them about 70 kilometers from the coast and to continue towards Gaza. Additional warnings were also ignored.
State officials satisfied with Ireland
Senior state officials in Jerusalem expressed their satisfaction over the quiet takeover of the ship and over the Irish government's handling of the situation, "despite the significant differences between the countries."
Ashdod Port, Saturday (Photo: Reuters)
"Ireland's government did not inflame the situation, did not incite to violence and did not back riots against the IDF's soldiers while contesting Israel's sovereignty, although it is one of the most hostile governments to Israel in the European Union. It should be noted that the Irish government exercised lot of restraint on this matter."
The Cambodian-flagged Rachel Corrie – named for an American college student who was crushed to death by a bulldozer in 2003 while protesting Israeli house demolitions in Gaza - was carrying hundreds of tons of aid, including wheelchairs, medical supplies and cement.
The State Department in Washington said Friday evening that US officials had been in touch with "multiple" countries, including the Israeli and Irish governments, about the latest effort. "Everyone wants to avoid a repetition of this tragic incident," spokesman P.J. Crowley said.
Later, National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said the Rachel Corrie should sail to Ashdod in the interest of safety. He said Washington was working "urgently" with Israel, the Palestinian Authority and other international partners to develop new procedures for delivering more goods to Gaza, while blocking the entry of weapons. "The current arrangements are unsustainable and must be changed," he said.