Ships outside Ashdod Port
Photo: AFP

Seized ship enters Ashdod Port

Rachel Corrie arrives at Ashdod Port Saturday afternoon accompanied by Navy ships; senior official says peace activists did not show resistance, offered ladder to IDF soldiers boarding vessel

The Rachel Corrie ship, with 19 Irish activists and a Malaysian crew on board, entered the Ashdod Port Saturday afternoon accompanied by Navy ships.


Earlier Saturday, Navy commandoes raided the commandeered the ship in a peaceful operation and without any injuries. A senior IDF official said that activists on the ship displayed no resistance and even offered a ladder to the soldiers. He added that the army utilized electronic shielding to paralyze communications on the seized vessel.


Navy officials earlier attempted to convince the ship's crew to change its course and head to Ashdod, but the activists refused all offers.


"We pledged that all the equipment they're bringing in, including the cement, would be handed over to the Strip, and that they would be allowed to accompany the goods all the way to the border crossings," the Navy official said. "We said the cement would be handed over to the United Nations or to official organizations to ensure it is used for civilian means."


Earlier Saturday, the police announced that the activists will be treated differently than participants in the previous Gaza-bound flotilla.


Police officials said the activists on the Rachel Corrie did not commit any offences, did not offer resistance, and reached understandings with the IDF, and for that reason will be treated leniently. The activists were expected to be interrogated and later taken to an Immigration Authority facility in Holon, near Tel Aviv. 


'No info about more ships'

After four offers were rejected, the Navy moved into action, asking the vessel's captain to gather all passengers on the ship's deck. "The moment we shifted to this stage, they cooperated fully," the IDF official said.


"We told them what we're about to do. We boarded the ship. In light of the number of people on board and their cooperation, we decided there was no need for helicopters. We boarded the ship in a cautious manner, but they did not show any resistance. They just stayed in place," he said.


In a talk with journalists, the senior officer said that the Navy will continue to impose the blockade around the Gaza Strip.


"For the time being, the blockade is in place. In our view this is just and lawful, and we intend to impose it in line with our mandate," he said. Referring to yet another ship, Challenger 2, which was to take part in the original flotilla but was delayed because of mishaps, the officer said Israel had no information about when it would be fixed.


"Regarding additional ships – we have no concrete information," he said.


Addressing the possibility that Turkey will initiate additional Gaza-bound flotillas, accompanied by Turkish missile boats, the official said: "It's clear to all of us that this would be a diplomatic incident with major implications. I won't voice an opinion on the matter."


Ilana Curiel contributed to the story


פרסום ראשון: 06.05.10, 17:54
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