Remaining Estelle Activists to be Expelled

Israel set to expel the last of 17 foreign activists arrested when their ship was intercepted during an attempt to reach Gaza.

Elad Benari ,

The Estelle enters the port of Ashdod
The Estelle enters the port of Ashdod

Israel will on Wednesday expel the last of 17 foreign activists arrested when the navy intercepted their ship during an attempt to breach Israel's maritime blockade on Gaza, a spokeswoman told AFP.

"The 17 detainees will be deported during the night between Tuesday and Wednesday depending on available seats on airlines," Sabine Hadad, spokeswoman for the Israeli immigration service, told the news agency.

On Saturday, Israeli troops boarded the MV Estelle after numerous calls to the passengers onboard went unanswered.

After the IDF takeover of the boat, which concluded peacefully, it was taken to the Ashdod port, where it was inspected by Israeli officials and found to be carrying no humanitarian aid meant for Gazans, as its passengers had claimed.

Among those taken into custody was 79-year-old Canadian former lawmaker Jim Manly, as well as Finnish nationals, Norwegians, Spaniards and Swedes. Five members of the European Parliament were also on board the ship.

Nine foreign activists had already been expelled on Sunday -- five Greeks, three Spaniards and an Italian -- after they waived their right to appeal an Israeli judge's decision to expel them, AFP reported.

A Defense Ministry official on Saturday night called the participants of the latest Gaza flotilla “provocateurs motivated by hatred of Israel” and said that “their goal is not to provide humanitarian aid, but to discredit the country.” The official clarified that “all kinds of products and goods, except for weapons and other materials that may be used to harm Israeli citizens, are permitted to enter Gaza.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu praised the IDF on Saturday for its interception of the Estelle and said, “Even the people who were on the ship know that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Their entire objective was to create a provocation and blacken Israel's name."

He added, "If human rights were really important to these activists, they would sail to Syria. We will continue to take strong and determined action to defend our borders.”