Flotilla III: Detained Gaza activists arrive in Ashdod port

Mariam Mecky , Tuesday 30 Jun 2015

Marianne is part of the third Freedom Flotilla which was captured by Israel in international waters

Gaza-bound Marianne (Photo: Courtesy of Freedom Flotilla Coalition)

Gaza-bound Marianne, the Scandinavian trawler attempting to break the nine-year Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip, arrived at the Israeli port of Ashdod on Monday night after being captured by the Israeli army in international waters.

Marianne is part of the third Freedom Flotilla which was attempting to break the siege, along with three other boats.

On Sunday night, the Israeli navy announced they had captured the Scandinavian trawler and detained all on board “in international waters,” referring to the incident as "uneventful."

"Following their refusal the navy visited and searched the vessel in international waters in order to prevent their intended breach of the maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip," the statement said.

An Israeli naval and land blockade has restricted the movement of 1.8 million Palestinians and goods from and to the Gaza Strip since the Islamist Hamas movement won parliamentary elections and became its de-facto ruler in 2006, inflicting increasing hardship on the impoverished population.

Challenging the Israeli military statement, the Freedom Flotilla Coalition released a statement early Monday condemning the attack as "an act of state piracy."

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition called on their governments to strongly protest against the violation of international maritime law by the Israeli state and on all civil society organisations to condemn the actions of Israel.

Speaking to Ahram Online, Joe Catron, a BDS activist, said: "These abductions at sea are often quite brutal, involving beatings, electroshocks and strip-searches by Israeli naval forces and prison guards, even when Israel tells the media they happened 'without incident'," pointing out that the Freedom Flotilla Coalition announced that Israeli forces had attacked at least one crew member on the Marianne with an electroshock weapon.

"We're calling our national governments, demanding they pressure Israel to release these brave volunteers and end its blockade of the Gaza Strip immediately," Catron added.

Late Monday, the Swedish Foreign Ministry announced that they had presented a protest to Israel on the interception of the trawler Marianne in international waters, according to Ship to Gaza website.

The first attempt to break the siege with a flotilla was organised in 2010. Israeli forces raided the ships in international waters, killing nine activists and injuring dozens of others on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara. A second attempt was organised out of Greece in 2011, but the vessels were turned back by the Greek coastguard.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu lauded the operation, insisting his government was right to take action against Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules Gaza, AFP reported.

Tens of human rights activists and politicians, among them Tunisia's former president Moncef Marzouki, Arab Israeli MP Basel Ghattas, along with members of the European Parliament, were on board Freedom Flotilla III.

Marzouki was deported by Israel to France on Tuesday, RT reported.

Marianne, the Scandinavian trawler carrying medical equipment and solar panels, set off in May to Gaza, stopping at Sicily in Italy, Helsingborg in Sweden, Copenhagen in Denmark, Galicia in Spain, and Lisbon in Portugal.

The flotilla was expected to arrive in Gaza before the end of June, Tiziano Ferri, the media coordinator for Freedom Flotilla III in Italy, told Ahram Online in mid-June.

Catron said he believes the Flotilla III mission was succesful despite all odds.

"By drawing global attention to Israel's crimes and helping build a worldwide movement to end them, Freedom Flotilla III had already succeeded before it sailed from its last stop."

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