The Swedish boat "Marianne," a part of a four-boat flotilla which tried to break Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, was towed into the Ashdod port on Monday night by the Israeli Navy after being taken over by commandos from the Shayetet 13 special forces unit in the very early hours of the day.
The IDF said that the seizure was in accordance with the decision of the political echelon, and after exhausting all diplomatic channels.
"When it became clear that the passengers had no intention to cooperate and proceed to the port of Ashdod, it was decided to seize the vessel and to transport it to the Ashdod port," an IDF official said.
Besides the "Marianne", the commandos saw two other ships, which refrained from nearing Gaza and turned back. A fourth ship is believed to have turned back beforehand.
The activists additionally released pre-recorded videos of themselves aboard the ship, explaining thier views.
The activists aboard the "Marianne" will be questioned upon their arrival in Israel and then expelled abroad through Ben Gurion International Airport. The Israeli citizens among them - including Joint Arab List MK Basel Ghattas - will be handed off to the care of the Israel Police.
Following the seizure, videos by the participants were published online. "The Israelis acted like pirates again, took us as hostages, and prevented us from reaching Gaza," said former Israeli and left-wing activist Dror Feiler.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commended "the determined and effective detention of the passengers who tried to enter Gaza's shores illegally. This flotilla is nothing but a display of hypocrisy and lies, which only helps the terrorist organization Hamas and ignores all the atrocities in our region."
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon added: "This flotilla was not a humanitarian one and was not concerned for anyone's welfare. The participants' desire was to continue the campaign of Israel's de-legitimization. This is part of the spectacle of hypocrisy and lies of various bodies in the world, which prefer to strengthen and support a ruthless terrorist organization like Hamas. There is no siege on Gaza, and Israel is the only entity in the region that allows a constant entry of various commodities and the carrying out of humanitarian projects. But we have no intention of allowing any entity to smuggle weapons that will be directed against us."
There were 18 passengers aboard the "Marianne", including Joint Arab List MK Basel Ghattas, former Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki and Feiler. It was accompanied by three smaller boats: "Rachel," with eight passengers on board; "Vittorio" with nine passengers on board; and "Juliano II" with 12 passengers.
The navy carefully tracked the vessels' movements and prepared its plan for stopping the flotilla.
On Sunday night, the flotilla's organizers said on Twitter that three ships had approached the flotilla and were recognized as belonging to the IDF. They said the closest ship was 500 meters away.
The Prime Minister's Office on Sunday published a missive to be given to the activists upon their arrival.
"It looks like you took a wrong turn," read the letter. "Perhaps you meant to sail to a place not far from here - Syria. Where Assad's regime is slaughtering its people on a daily basis, and this is done with the support of Iran's murderous regime."
As a lesson learned from the capture of the "Mavi Marmara flotilla" in 2010, the commandos were told to document the takeover so the IDF Spokesman's Office can quickly distribute the footage to world media before the activists could post their own image of victory.
MK Basel Ghattas, whose participation in the flotilla was first made public by Ynet, on Sunday sent a letter from the open sea to Netanyahu and Ya'alon, calling on them to refrain from using force and to instruct security forces to allow the ships to enter Gaza.