TEL AVIV – Israel’s navy on Sunday intercepted the Al Adwa vessel that was attempting to breach the country’s maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip, organizers of the Freedom Flotilla said.
“The Freedom Flotilla Coalition calls on the Norwegian Government, the national governments of those aboard Al Awda and the Freedom [Flotilla], other national governments, and relevant international organizations to act immediately,” said Torstein Dahle of Ship to Gaza Norway, part of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition.
“The international community must assume its responsibilities and demand that Israeli authorities ensure the safety of those on board, the speedy delivery of our gifts to the Palestinian people in Gaza, an end to the illegal blockade of Gaza, and to stop impeding our legal right of innocent passage to Gaza to deliver our gift of much-needed medical supplies,” he demanded.
#FreedomFlotilla boat carrying medical supplies for #Gaza hijacked by Israeli forces. Please contact your governments & demand #FreePassage #FreedomOfMovement for #AlAwda with her cargo of solidarity & hope for a Just Future for #Palestinehttps://t.co/Dv7lDa2nSZ #CountdowntoGaza pic.twitter.com/HlHhnKO7jy
— Freedom Flotilla (@GazaFFlotilla) July 29, 2018
The Freedom organizers said that the ship was “hijacked by Israeli forces” and added that it contained 13,000 euros worth of medical supplies bound for the Gaza Strip on board.
However, according to another report by Iran’s Press TV UK, there wasn’t much aid on board to begin with.
“There is also some medical aid on board, although the amount of medical aid is merely a gesture,” Press TV’s Richard Sudan said. “We’re talking just a few boxes.”
The Israel Navy stopped the Al Awda, which is Arabic for “The Return,” less than 60 nautical miles from the Gazan coast. It was one of three vessels that took part in the Freedom Flotilla. The Al Adwa left Palermo, Sicily on July 21 under a Norwegian flag.
About 40 activists from 15 countries took part in the flotilla, including Israel.
Far-left Israeli activist Yonatan Shapira joined the flotilla for what was his fourth attempt to breach the blockade.
Shapira was quoted by the Ynet news site as saying, “Our goal is to lift the blockade over Gaza. When a civilian group is fighting against a bigger body like a state, it has to develop creative ideas to succeed, and I’d be happy to hear such ideas from people.”
Ynet quoted another Israeli on board the boat, Zohar Regev, saying the weekly “March of Return” riots along the Gaza border gave the activists “motivation” to join the flotilla.
“There are people in the flotilla’s coalition with ties to the campaign in Gaza, but this flotilla was planned before that and with no connections to the campaign,” Regev said.
Regev, who lives in Spain, added that they would use “non-violent” means to resist the navy.
Regev said, “if we are stopped by the army, we will resist their takeover of the boat in non-violent ways. It means we won’t invite them to come on board, but we also won’t try to hurt them or create a situation in which we are a threat to them.”
The Freedom Italy yacht also took part in the flotilla but has yet to reach the blockade. Thirty-six activists from 15 different countries are on board, according to Zaher Birawi, head of the International Committee for Breaking the Siege of Gaza.
The London-based Birawi also heads the International Coordination Committee for the Great Return March. Israel’s Justice Ministry in 2013 exposed Birawi as a member of the Hamas Headquarters in Europe terrorist group.
The most famous breach of the Gaza maritime blockade occurred in 2010 with the Mavi Marmara flotilla.
The six-vessel flotilla carried IHH Islamists 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 soldiers only fired bullets when 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 the soldiers perpetrated an unprovoked 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 between Israel and Turkey.