TEL AVIV – The Israeli Navy foiled an attempted breach of the naval blockade around the Gaza Strip, arresting the eight Palestinians on board heading for Cyprus, some of whom were wounded while becoming embroiled in the recent clashes with Israeli forces along the border, the IDF said.
The breach was likely an act of protest since the boat did not have the equipment needed to reach Cyprus.
“The vessel was seized without incident,” the navy said, adding that medics administered treatment to the injured Palestinians on board.
“This is the second time in two months that the Hamas terror group tried to cause a provocation at sea by taking advantage of injured and handicapped people, and by paying residents of Gaza to take part in this kind of activity,” it said.
Hundreds of Palestinian well-wishers had gathered to see off the boat.
The passengers “with specific needs are prevented from travelling, receiving care and finishing their studies,” said organizer Raed Abu Dair. “We are determined to break the blockade.”
Mahmud Abu Ataya, 25, who sustained a leg wound during the riots, said: “I am leaving to be cared for abroad.”
The blockade, which was implemented in 2007 following the takeover of Gaza by the Hamas terror group, was declared legal by the UN. Egypt has also imposed a naval blockade of the coastal enclave.
In May, the Al-Hurriyah (Liberty) vessel from the Gaza Strip attempted to break the blockade during the anniversary of the Mavi Marmara.
“The IDF seized a Palestinian boat carrying some 17 sailors who broke the sea blockade,” the navy said at the time. “The seizure was carried out without incident.”
The Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara flotilla in 2010 became embroiled in a bloody battle with IDF commandos, leading to the death of nine members of a Turkish terrorist organization, resulting in Turkey severing diplomatic ties with Israel.
However, as Breitbart Jerusalem reported in March, a pro-Palestinian activist inadvertently corroborated Israel’s version of events.
The six-vessel flotilla carried IHH terrorists posing as human rights activists bringing supplies to Gaza. The activists ignored repeated warnings from Israel not to breach Gaza’s naval blockade, which had the stated purpose of preventing the Hamas terror group from gaining access to more weapons. IDF commandos boarded the ship and only fired bullets once one of them had his gun seized by a protester who fired a shot. The IDF also said at the time — and provided video footage as proof — that the so-called humanitarian activists were armed with batons, clubs, knives and metal bars. The charges were vociferously denied by the protesters who claimed that, unprovoked, the soldiers perpetrated a massacre, shooting and killing indiscriminately. By the time the IDF released the footage showing otherwise, the damage had been done. Israel was roundly condemned on the world stage and Turkey demanded an apology. The incident led to a six-year rift in relations.
“Live fire was used against our forces. They initiated the violence, that’s 100 percent clear,” Israel’s then-government spokesman Mark Regev told the BBC at the time.
In posts from Palestine Live — a secret British Facebook group — that emerged in March, the co-founder and spokesperson of the Free Gaza Movement Greta Berlin admitted that the Israeli troops did not open fire until after Ken O’Keefe, a former U.S. marine aboard the vessel, had violently seized a gun from one of them.
Berlin argued with some of the other members of the group who came out in praise of O’Keefe.
“He was responsible for some of the deaths on board the Mavi Marmara. Had he not disarmed an Israeli terrorist soldier, they would not have started to fire. That’s enough. Most of you have no idea what you’re talking about,” she wrote.
At the time, Berlin repeatedly claimed to the New York Times and other publications that the commandos “opened fire on sleeping civilians at four in the morning.”
“You think it was smart that he took the gun away from these crazies on board the MM [Mavi Marmara]? Then ran around the deck saying he had the gun? Then hid it so that the Israelis could say they found a gun on board? Right,” she wrote in another thread on the Palestine Live group.
She said O’Keefe was “not a hero and his actions put others on the Mavi Marmara at risk” and he had “crazy ideas to attack crazed and armed soldiers.”