VIDEO - Israel Defense Forces soldiers on Tuesday intercepted a Gaza-bound catamaran carrying Jewish activists, after the vessel entered an area under naval blockade. The boat, "Irene," was led to the Ashdod Port following the non-violent raid.
After the boat docked at the port, its small cargo was unloaded. The foreign activists were handed over to members of the Interior Ministry's Oz Unit, while the Israelis were taken in for questioning by the police on suspicion of illegally entering Israel.
Some 20 left-wing activists staged a protest near the Ashdod Port as the vessel arrived. "We are here to voice our protest against the siege imposed by the State on millions of Palestinians in Gaza. The State won't even let prosthesis into Gaza, although the State is the one which caused their disability," said Zvia Shapira, the mother of two of the boat's passengers.
"How can the State decide who will be allowed in for medical treatment and who won't? We are here to end the occupation and give the Palestinians the right to move and study freely."
She admitted that she feared for her son, who was taken in for questioning. "I'm afraid something will happen to him. I don't trust the IDF. An army which throws phosphorus bombs cannot be trusted."
The family members and activists followed the passengers to the Ashdod police station and waved signs reading, "Is prosthesis dangerous?", "Medications = a security risk?" and "End the occupation."
Navy troops raid 'Irene'
The boat's captain said earlier that the small vessel was approaching the Gaza shore and that an Israeli warship was nearing. The IDF informed the captain that he would not be allowed to proceed to Gaza, and that troops would raid the small boat only if it tried to breach the blockade, adding that such a takeover could result in casualties.
"We are surrounded by at least 10 Navy ships. They are probably going to collide with us any minute," one of the activists, Rami Elhanan, told Ynet.
"They are demanding that we stop and threatening that if we fail to do so, it may end with casualties. We are moving forward in full force, hugging each other and singing songs," he added.
Captain Glynn Secker said he expected the navy to intercept "Irene," which was carrying nine Jewish activists from Israel and other countries.
"We will not obey them, we will not help them," Secker said. "But we will not confront them physically. We will engage in no violence."
Itamar Shapira, brother of Yonatan Shapira, an ex-pilot from the Israeli Air Force and a known anti-Israel activist, spoke to Ynet from the boat at 9 am Tuesday morning and said he expected to arrive in Gaza within three hours.
"We are carrying flags with the names of all the people who wanted to be here but couldn't," he said.
Foreign Ministry: Shapira an astronaut
Foreign Ministry official Yossi Levy welcomed the non-violent takeover of the vessel. "We praise the excellent work done by the Navy. After investing attention and sensitivity, the flotilla ended peacefully."
Levy noted that the sail was "a completely unnecessary media gimmick which should never have been born. This is a trick of hatred and publicity for people who don’t care about the love of Israel and don't deserve more than a footnote."
The Foreign Ministry expressed its anger against the Israelis and Jews who took part in the sail. According to a ministry official, "They poured fuel into the bonfire of hatred against Israel worldwide. We don't expect Israelis to be patriotic, but they should definitely not act as Hamas followers."
The official criticized former pilot Yonatan Shapira and the Holocaust survivor who took part in the flotilla.
"This former pilot, who has joined the ranks of Hamas and sprays hateful graffiti on the walls of the Warsaw Ghetto, is not a pilot but an astronaut. A Holocaust survivor who sanctifies the name of the Jews' murderers and takes time to justify those who don't accept Israel's right for sovereignty has probably not learned anything from the terrible past."
'We slept like babies'
The catamaran set sail from Cyprus on Sunday with Jewish activists from Europe and the US on board. Rami Elhanan, who lost his daughter in a Jerusalem terror attack in 1997, said it had been a pleasant sail.
"We slept like babies, because we have a clear conscience," he said. "We are singing, dancing, and telling old Jewish jokes."
One of the organizers of the sail is Dr. Edith Lutz, a German specialist in Jewish studies and a nurse. She succeeded in reaching Gaza in a flotilla that sailed there in 2008.
"We are not alone. We have many supporters. We have heard from the media that we will be stopped, but we come in peace, bearing nothing but love."
Reuven Moskowitz, an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor, said the crew members were in high spirits. "I'm sorry to have angered the truth-tellers in Israel," he said.
"We are an extraordinary people. We are only sorry that they plan to stop us and remind everyone that a true hero is one who tries to turn an enemy into a friend," Moskowitz added.
"In any case we refuse to recognize the IDF's right to arrest us in Gaza's territorial waters when all we want to do is bring them harmonicas, toys, and some medicine."
He added that the crew members would not use force against the soldiers if they indeed raid the boat.
Hanan Greenberg, Ronen Medzini and Shmulik Hadad contributed to this report
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