Israel peacefully intercepts Gaza-bound ship


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel peacefully intercepted a seventh Gaza-bound ship and brought it to Ashdod port.

Israeli Navy forces boarded the Irish-owned ship named the Rachel Corrie, in memory of an American pro-Palestinian activist who was killed by an Israeli military bulldozer in Gaza in 2003, on Saturday 22 miles off the coast of Gaza. They boarded the ship from the sea rather than by helicopters, as six flotilla ships were last week when nine activists on a Turkish-owned ship were killed during clashes with Navy commandos.

The 19 activists on the boat, including Irish Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire and a Malaysian lawmaker, all agreed to be deported and were set to leave the country by Sunday evening, according to the Israeli Interior Ministry.

The ship was carrying hundreds of tons of concrete, as well as tons of paper and wheelchairs.

Israel began calling to the ship last Friday asking that it go to the Ashdod port and allow a nongovernmental agency to inspect its contacts and take its cargo, including the cement, to Gaza. Cement has been barred from Gaza by Israel’s blockade out of fear that it would be used to build bunkers for Hamas terrorists.

"It has been brought to my attention that should it result in the way I proposed, of you coming into Ashdod under escort and offloading the cargo in Ashdod Port, the cement that you said is the bulk of your cargo will be transferred to Gaza," a Navy officer said during a radio exchange on Saturday. "That’s the assurance I have just been given by my superiors. To the best of my knowledge that would be precedent setting. It would something you could take back to your supporters, to your fellow passengers, to the people you say you want to support, and to the government you say you are rebuking for not doing more for Gaza,"

The Rachel Corrie suggested to the officer that his boat "stop, have a cup of tea and we’ll continue on to Gaza."

"Yesterday, the entire world saw the difference between a humanitarian flotilla and a hate flotilla by violent, terrorism-supporting extremists," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday at the start of the regular Cabinet meeting.

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