Drama on High Seas: Navy Stops Pro-Arab Boat
The Navy stopped pro-Arab activists around midnight Monday from reaching Gaza by stopping their "Free Gaza" vessel for the first time after several previous landings in Gaza. Activists claim the Navy rammed their boat, and they charged Israel with "piracy on the high seas."
The movement's spokeswoman Greta Berlin told Israel National News that the incident occurred approximately 50-60 miles off the Gaza coast, in international waters. Any vessel can be legally required to identify itself in order to prevent it from entering prohibited territory although its passengers cannot be arrested in international waters, explained Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.
The Free Gaza boat, dubbed the Dignity, collided with a Navy boat, but Berlin said the activists on board have pictures to prove it was rammed, an allegation that Palmor said is ridiculous. "If we wanted to hit it intentionally, everyone would have drowned," he told Israel National News.
Ministry spokesman Yossi Levy was quoted by a CNN correspondent on board the 60-foot vessel as saying that the collision occurred when a Navy boat tried to turn around. Free Gaza claimed that at least half a dozen Navy boats surrounded the Dignity.
Defense Ministry spokesman Shlomo Dror said 'the time has come to put a stop to these anarchists.'
The activists reported they did not have enough fuel to return to Cyprus and that the Navy did not allow the boat to proceed to Egypt but is allowing the vessel to sail to Lebanon after originally ordering it to turn back to Cyprus.
Among the passengers on the boat are former United States Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and activists from Britain, Australia, Ireland, Cyprus and Tunisia. Israel previously has not challenged Free Gaza sailings to Gaza. The movement's activists have challenged Israel's right to sovereignty over the Gaza coast, but Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas has dismissed the landings as insignificant.
Defense Ministry spokesman Shlomo Dror said "the time has come to put a stop to these anarchists" who he said are not bringing any significant amount of humanitarian supplies. He pointed out that Israel has opened Gaza crossings for hundreds of tons of aid despite the ongoing rocket and mortar attacks on Israel.
More than 120 trucks entered Gaza Sunday and Monday, and 100 more are expected to reach the area Tuesday.