JERUSALEM, Israel – While residents of southern Israel dealt with rocket and mortar shell attacks from the Gaza Strip, Israeli naval forces intercepted a vessel from a protest flotilla that set sail from Gaza earlier that day.
Organizers said they planned the protest to mark the eighth anniversary of the maritime incident aboard the Turkish flagship Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010, by attempting to breach Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.
According to media reports, organizers and passengers knew they would be stopped, which they were, without incident.
Among the 17 passengers sailing to Cyprus were reportedly people needing medical help and students who wanted to study abroad.
After questioning the passengers, naval officers redirected the boat to Ashdod port, explaining that medical personnel would be there to help as needed, while Gaza residents would be questioned and returned to the Strip.
The interception of the Mavi Marmara took place in international waters about 80 miles off the Israeli coast. It’s a lengthy saga that took place on May 31, 2010.
The officers of an Israeli naval commando unit tried to convince the flagship’s captain to change course and sail to the Ashdod port, where its cargo would be inspected before land transport to Gaza. Israel transports tons of goods and supplies to Gaza by tractor trailer every day.
When the Mavi Marmara’s captain insisted on sailing to the Gaza Strip, the next option was to board the vessel to talk with him in person.
As the naval commandos touched down on the deck, more than 40 pro-Palestinian “activists” attacked them with clubs, chains, knives and other weapons. They beat them mercilessly and even threw one of them over a railing. With their survival at stake, they were given permission to defend themselves with live ammunition.
Nine of the rioters were killed in the confrontation. The incident provided Turkey with an international platform to condemn Israel’s response.
It’s important to understand that the naval blockade, which is legal under international law, prevents Iran – or anyone else – from supplying weapons to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
In 2009, Israel prevented the Karin A from delivering 50,000 tons of weapons to Hamas.
Following Tuesday’s interception, the IDF Spokesman’s Office issued a statement, which read in part, “The naval blockade is a legal, necessary defensive measure that has been recognized time and again by both the world and the United Nations, intended to preserve Israel’s security and maritime borders and protect it against terrorism and armaments smuggling.”
Meanwhile, US Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt advised Hamas to abandon its “deadly theatrics.”
Shame on all involved in inciting the so called “reverse flotilla” today. Hamas treats this like a play being acted out for a live media audience. But these are real lives Hamas is cynically risking in a grim bid to hold on to power.
— Jason D. Greenblatt (@jdgreenblatt45) May 28, 2018