IDF Blocks 'Free Gaza' Boat

A ship sent to break the isolation of the Hamas regime in Gaza was intercepted by the Navy overnight and forced to remain in international waters.

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz , | updated: 10:53

A Free Gaza ship sets sail (archive)
A Free Gaza ship sets sail (archive)
Israel News Photo: (Flash 90)

A ship sent to break the isolation of the Hamas regime in Gaza was intercepted by the Navy overnight Monday and forced to remain in international waters. IDF sources still had no comment on the developing situation on Tuesday morning.
On Tuesday, the ship was still off Israel's coast, "continuing to Gaza."

The Free Gaza ship, The Spirit of Humanity, left Cyprus early Monday and reached the edge of Israeli maritime jurisdiction on Monday night, after crossing from Lebanese waters. Israeli naval vessels apparently contacted the ship and blocked its progress south to Gaza in the middle of the night. Activists on board claimed they were threatened and had their navigational equipment electronically jammed by the IDF.

Shortly afterwards, the Spirit headed West in order to be sure to remain in international waters. Later in the morning on Tuesday, the ship was still off Israel's coast, "continuing to Gaza," according to the Free Gaza organization.

Israeli naval vessels repeated a warning message to the would-be infiltrators that they "will not be allowed to proceed to Gaza."

Foreign Ministry sources confirmed that "because of the history of this organization, we informed them that they would not be permitted to [go to Gaza]." Officially, the Spirit of Humanity is registered as on its way to Port Said, Egypt.

Reports differ even from within the Free Gaza organization as to what the ship, ostensibly sent to provide moral support for the Hamas regime in Gaza, is carrying. Ramzi Kysia, a Free Gaza organizer, said that each of 21 passengers was carrying a kilogram of cement, an olive tree sapling, a water purifier, school materials and construction tools. Other Free Gaza sources say that there are 20 saplings on board and one "symbolic" bag of cement. Foreign media reports leading up to the attempted maritime infiltration claimed the 21 activists were bringing three tons of medicine and other humanitarian aid. Among the passengers are former US congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan-Maguire, famed for dramatic, but failed, attempts to end confessional violence in Northern Ireland.

Last year, the Free Gaza organization made five successful voyages to Gaza, dropping supplies into the hands of the Hamas regime and smuggling out several Palestinian Authority residents whose movements were restricted due to Israeli security concerns. A fourth and fifth ship sent by the anti-Israel group were prevented from reaching Gaza by technical difficulties and by the Israeli Navy.

IDF sources refused to comment on the current Free Gaza attempt to break through Israel's maritime border. The Israeli embargo on uncontrolled access to Gaza was put in place to combat the jihadist Hamas regime's efforts to restock weaponry, including Kassam rockets, used against Israeli civilians.