The Rainbow Warrior docked in Haifa
The Rainbow Warrior docked in Haifaphoto: file

Police arrested fourteen activists from the Greenpeace organization at the Ashkelon harbor, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, on Monday after their ship, the Rainbow Warrior, docked in a prohibited area and the activists proceeded to vandalize another ship at the port. Those arrested include Israelis and foreign nationals.

The Israeli Coast Guard was alerted and sped to Ashkelon when the

The Israeli Coast Guard was alerted and sped to Ashkelon.

Rainbow Warrior entered a restricted area of the city's port. Police boarded the vessel and arrested the Greenpeace activists. In addition to entering an area prohibited to general civilian traffic, the activists spray-painted the words "Quit Coal" on the side of a ship that was unloading coal. The vandals also apparently planned to launch small boats or dinghies from the Rainbow Warrior towards a power station operating at the Ashkelon harbor.

The Greenpeace activists undertook Monday's actions in protest against the use of coal for energy production at the Ashkelon power plant. The Israeli government has plans to build a second electric power plant, also to be fueled by coal, alongside the existing one.

The Rainbow Warrior docked at Haifa Bay on Saturday on the open and legal leg of its visit to Israel. The crew opened the ship to Israelis and set up exhibits on board explaining their views on climate change and coal fuel. It may have been at this stage that the ship picked up Israeli Greenpeace activists for the next, illicit leg of the ship's voyage.

This is far from the first visit of the Rainbow Warrior to Israel. It is not even the first attention-grabbing "direct action" executed by Greenpeace activists in Israel this year. In May, three Greenpeace activists rappelled from the roof of the National Infrastructure Ministry in Jerusalem. They draped a huge banner across the front of the building with a message in Hebrew, "In one week, Fuad will kill Ashkelon," followed by the words, "COAL KILLS!" in English. "Fuad" refers to National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who was set to approve the second coal-based power station in Ashkelon at the time.

As the banner-hangers jumped, Greenpeace activists blocked the entrance to the Ministry with ten kilograms of coal with two protruding dummy legs, "intended to represent the fact that Fuad's head is buried deep inside the coal industry," Greenpeace activists explained on an enviromentalist website.

At the May protest, Nili Grosman, Energy and Climate Campaigner for Greenpeace Mediterranean in Israel, said: "As if the Kassam bomb terror is not enough, now the citizens of Ashkelon have to suffer from an internal terror, produced by the Infrastructures Ministry but no less severe."