Greek authorities have arrested the captain of a boat that was to be part of a Gaza-bound flotilla trying to deliver humanitarian aid to the Palestinian territory, officials said Saturday.
The 60-year-old captain, whose name was not released by authorities, was being held at Piraeus police headquarters and will remain there until a court hearing Tuesday.
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Greece's coast guard said the captain of the "Audacity of Hope" faces charges of trying to leave port without permission and of endangering the lives of the boat's passengers. The latter charge is a felony.
Watch Greek forces arrest boat captain
The "Audacity of Hope" was carrying 36 passengers, four crew and about 10 members of the media. Its attempt to sail Friday night from the port of Perama, near Athens, was thwarted by coast guard speedboats.
Unprecedented preparations: 'Turkel would applaud'
Meanwhile Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon commended the intelligence and military efforts taking place in Israel in preparation for the flotilla, in case it arrives.
"It's no coincidence the organizers are having trouble carrying out their plans," he said Saturday. "It is thanks to work including diplomatic efforts and IDF operation plans that are meant to respond to various scenarios."
Israel has denied claims over the past few days that it sabotaged ships trying to breach the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Ya'alon says the state has learned from past mistakes, better preparing itself. In the past, he said, preparations were made mostly by the army, but the current preparations include top-level officials and government ministries.
A source in the defense establishment added that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's relations with his Greek counterpart, George Papandreou, were helping matters immensely. "The Greeks are making a great effort to prevent the flotilla," the official said.
"Judge Turkel would not believe how many of his recommendations were implemented. If another committee is established, Turkel will applaud," said a source familiar with the preparations, referring to the judge who led an inquiry into the May 31, 2010 raid on the first flotilla, which killed nine Turks.
"Intelligence being gathered on the flotilla has reached unprecedented levels, and every bit of information is analysed."
Activists trying to reach Gaza have accused Israel of damaging two ships docked in Turkey and Greece, but Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor dismissed the sabotage charges as "ridiculous," calling them "sad conspiracy theories."
Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report
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