UPDATED (16:40 – 4 November 2011). PRESS RELEASE: Freedom Waves to Gaza – ‘FREEDOM WAVES TO GAZA BOARDED BY ISRAELI MILITARY’.
Canadian and Irish ships sailing with Freedom Waves to Gaza have been illegally boarded by the Israeli military in international waters a short while ago.
The Israeli military stated that “Upon arrival of the vessels at the Ashdod port, the activists will be transferred to the custody of the Israel Police and immigration authorities in the Ministry of Interior”.
Freedom Waves to Gaza organizers have been unable to communicate with the ships since soon after the vessels were approached by Israeli warships earlier this afternoon.
The Canadian boat ‘Tahrir’ (Liberation) confirmed that the Israeli navy had contacted them asking for their destination at around 13:00 (Gaza time) to which Ehab Lotayef, an activist on board the ship, replied ‘The conscience of humanity’. When the Israelis again demanded to know the destination of the ship Lotayef replied; ‘The betterment of mankind’. ‘
Huwaida Arraf, spokesperson from Freedom Waves to Gaza, said “It’s clear that 27 civilians on two small boats, carrying only medicine, constituted no security threat to the Israeli state, and that the determination to keep them out is only a furtherance of Israel’s policy of collective punishment, a crime against humanity. Despite this Israeli aggression, we will keep coming, wave after wave, by air, sea, and land, to challenge Israel’s illegal policies towards Gaza and all of Palestine. Our movement will not stop or be stopped until Palestine is free.”
The Israeli military reported that the navy has been ordered by IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz to board the ships after “attempts to contact them failed.” The Israeli military has offered to unload the boats’ supplies at Ashdod, Israel.
Anatolia News Agency, Turkey, has reported that the boats were offered the choice to go to Egypt or return.
At 13:00 both ships were around 51 nautical miles from the coast of Gaza in international waters.
Israeli commandos boarded a previous Gaza Freedom Flotilla on 31 May 2010, killing nine Turkish activists and wounding many more.
The Freedom Waves to Gaza initiative is a non-violent, civil society movement to challenge the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza Earlier this morning, activists aboard both ships were preparing for possible attack by the Israeli navy by training in nonviolent resistance tactics. The two ships, carrying a total of 27 passengers and $30,000 worth of medicine and supplies, set off from Turkey on November 2.
For more details contact:
Freedom Waves Media Office (Tel): +970 (0)592 346 895