Just five minutes – this is the estimated time it took Israel's Navy to commandeer the Rachel Corrie Ship
en route to the Gaza Strip.
The raid got underway with the vessel roughly 23 miles west of the Gaza shore, right on the boundary of the naval blockade imposed on the strip. Navy Chief Major General Eliezer Marom received the chief of staff's approval before proceeding. The top military officials were also in touch with Defense Minister Ehud Barak during the operation.
Navy boats approach ship (Photo: IDF Spokesman's Office)
The overall operation was headed by the commander of Israel's missile boat fleet, while the actual raid on the ship was led by the commander of the Flotilla 13 commando unit, Colonel A.
The decision to take over the vessel was taken roughly at 12 pm, when it became clear that the ship had no intention of complying with the Navy's messages and turn to the Ashded port for an inspection.
The vessel's captain was informed that Navy soldiers will board the ship in line with international law and without using force, and that the IDF expected personnel on the ship to behave similarly.
The captain made it clear to the forces he had no intention to offer violent resistance. He gathered the 11 passengers and crewmembers on the ship's deck, where they peacefully waited for the Navy's boats. The Navy dispatched three missile boats to the area, as well as several patrol vessels which have been accompanying the Rachel Corrie since Friday. Additional missile boats were deployed in case the operation turned violent.
Shortly before 12:30, two missile boats reached the Rachel Corrie carrying about 20 combat soldiers, including four female fighters belonging to the Navy's special security unit, in charge of securing ports and vessels. The females were brought in so that they personally handle the females on board, including Nobel Prize Laureate Mairead Maguire.
The Navy commander was on board a nearby missile boat along with Flotilla 13's commander during the operation. The fighters boarded the ship using rope ladders without facing any resistance, explained their demands to the captain, and ensured they were being met.
The operation took about five minutes, with activists on board the ship yelling slogans at Navy troops but refraining from any violence. The incident highlighted the difference between passengers on Board the Marmara, who planned a violent and lethal clash in order to smear Israel, and Rachel Carrie activists. The Navy said the latter activists were part of a "provocative sail", but made do with conveying their political message, thereby averting any kind of violent clash.