Captain of flotilla boat accuses Israel of violating law

Captain of Norwegian boat which participated in anti-Israel flotilla claims Israeli authorities used violent force against boat's crew.

Ben Ariel ,

Gaza flotilla (archive)
Gaza flotilla (archive)

The captain of a Norwegian boat carrying pro-Palestinian activists en route to Gaza on Thursday accused Israeli authorities of violating the law by boarding the vessel in international waters and using violent force against its crew who were arrested.

Norway has asked Israel to explain the circumstances surrounding the arrests and "the allegations of excessive use of force," a Norwegian government spokesman told AFP.

"We were arrested in international waters and we were closer to Egypt than Israel," the boat's captain Herman Reksten said early Thursday when he returned to Norway after being held for three days in an Israeli prison.

"Israel has broken all the rules, it's horrific that they board a Norwegian ship in international waters and force it to moor in Israel," he charged in an interview with the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK.

The IDF on Sunday seized the boat off the Gaza Strip with activists who were denouncing the land and sea blockade imposed by Israel.

The Norwegian-flagged Karstein ship had 22 people on board. All of them have since been released and expelled from Israel or are in the process of being deported, according to Ship to Gaza Norway.

Arriving at Oslo International Airport, Karstein captain Reksten also accused Israeli soldiers of shocking the activists with tasers.

"I still have a headache from being hit in prison," he added, according to AFP.

The Israeli embassy in Oslo denied the accusations.

"It's actually exactly the opposite: the ones that were acting against international law were those activists who were attempting to breach an internationally-recognized legal naval blockade over the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by an Islamic terror organization, Hamas," Dan Poraz, a diplomat at the embassy, told AFP.

"There was definitely not a use of excessive violence. There was use of a minimal and reasonable amount of force simply because the crew members ... were reluctant to cooperate and to follow orders from the (Israeli) navy," he added.

The flotilla was the latest attempt by activists to breach the naval blockade on Gaza, which Israel imposes in an attempt to prevent weapons from being smuggled into the Hamas-ruled enclave.

The most notable flotilla was the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla, in which nine Turkish Islamists were killed as they ignored Israeli calls to turn the vessel around and dock at the Ashdod Port.

Upon inspection, it was discovered that there was no humanitarian aid whatsoever aboard the Marmara despite the Islamists’ claims otherwise.

Gaza’s Hamas terrorist rulers continuously claim the enclave is under an “Israeli siege”. This is despite the fact that Israel regularly allows humanitarian aid and construction materials into Gaza and does so even though Gaza terrorists continue to attack southern Israel with rockets and openly threaten to destroy the Jewish state.