Navy boards, takes control of “Rachel Corrie” off Gaza coast
IDF navy forces boarded and took control of the MV Rachel Corrie Saturday afternoon. The troops did not meet any resistance from activists attempting to break the Gaza blockade, and the operation was completed without violent incidents.
The military said its forces boarded the 1,200-ton cargo ship from the sea, not helicopters. Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich said Saturday’s takeover took only a few minutes and that the vessel was being taken to Ashdod port.
Prior to the takeover, three navy ships tailed the aid boat for several hours throughout the morning, a few dozen kilometers from the blockaded Strip. The army said it had contacted the boat four times and urged its passengers to divert to Ashdod, but the activists had repeatedly refused.
The IDF had said that it would have no choice but to board the ship if it did not agree to go to Ashdod.
Israeli Navy Contacts 7th Flotilla Ship Attempting to Break Gaza Maritime Closure
Israeli Navy ship operators question the Gaza flotilla ship about their next port of destination to which they reply “our next port is Gaza port, we will be there for 2 and half to 3 days over.” The motor vessel Linda is then requested to remain on the channel 1-6 for the navy can continue to communicate with the ship.
As of 12:00, 5 June 2010, the Linda (original name of the ship which was renamed the Rachel Corrie) had refused 4 requests by the Israeli Navy to dock at Ashdod Port where they could unload their aid materials and after a security inspection all goods would be transferred to Gaza via the land crossings.
Activists on board the Irish boat insisted they would not resist if Israeli soldiers tried to take over their vessel. They rejected Israeli and US appeals to bring the ship to Ashdod.
This latest attempt to breach the blockade differs significantly from the flotilla the army intercepted on Monday, killing eight Turks and an American after being set upon by a group of activists. Nearly 700 activists had joined that operation, most of them aboard the lead boat from Turkey that was the scene of the violence. That boat, the Mavi Marmara, was sponsored by an Islamic aid group from Turkey, the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedom and Humanitarian Relief. Israel outlawed the group, known by its Turkish acronym IHH, in 2008 because of alleged ties to Hamas. By contrast, the Rachel Corrie was carrying just 11 passengers, whose effort was mainly sponsored by the Free Gaza movement, a Cyprus-based group that has renounced violence.
Audio of Radio Transmission Between Israeli Navy and Seventh Flotilla Ship
The Israel Navy conveyed the following message to the 7th flotilla ship via radio transmission:
“This is the Israeli Navy. You are approaching an area of hostilities which is under a naval blockade. The Gaza area, coastal region and Gaza harbor are closed to all maritime traffic. The Israeli government supports delivery of humanitarian supplies to the civilian population in the Gaza Strip and invites you to enter the Ashdod port. Delivery of the supplies in accordance with the authorities’ regulations will be done via the formal land crossings and under your observation, after which you can return to your home ports aboard the vessels on which you arrived.”
The ship organizers chose to ignore the invitation to dock at the Ashdod port where the cargo could be unloaded and transferred to the Gaza Strip upon inspection.
In an audio communication between the Israeli Navy and the seventh flotilla ship, the navy operator informs the flotilla that the ship is heading towards an area that is under a naval blockade. The Israeli navy requests that the ship dock at the Port of Ashdod, where they can unload their cargo and the IDF will deliver the goods through the land crossings after a security check. The seventh flotilla ship responds that they have received the message but do not respond to the request.
The ship was contacted 4 times and refused to respond to request. As of 12:45 5 June 2010 the crew of the ship permitted the IDF soldiers to board the ship. They boarded from the sea, no helicopters were used. No reports of violence.
US officials have urged the Rachel Corrie to sail to Ashdod in the interest of safety. National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer has said Washington was working “urgently” with Israel, the Palestinian Authority and other international partners to develop new procedures for delivering more goods to Gaza, while blocking the entry of weapons. “The current arrangements are unsustainable and must be changed,” he said.