Activists who were on board the Women’s Boat to Gaza are now in Tel Aviv’s international airport awaiting deportation, Al Jazeera reported.
According to Al Jazeera correspondent Mina Harballou, who was aboard the Zaytouna heading to break the siege on the Gaza Strip: “When Zaytouna was intercepted from the west of Israel at around 4pm there were two warships one on the right and the other on the left of the boat.”
She said three more Israeli naval ships surrounded the Zaytouna and ordered its captain, Ann Wright, to redirect its course. Wright refused saying the boat was 33 miles from the coast of Gaza and therefore still within international waters.
However the boat was intercepted after its captain was advised “numerous times to change course prior to the action”, the Israeli navy said in a statement yesterday.
It said its forces had boarded and searched the vessel, describing the operation as “uneventful”.
The sailboat was redirected to the Israeli port of Ashdod, to the north of the Gaza Strip, where they were questioned before being sent to Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv.
Wright “argued that activists were eager to get to Gaza to break the siege”, Harballou said. Wright then called for the Israeli forces “to deal with the women in a humanitarian manner as they were nonviolent and had not responded with violence.”
“There was no violence from either side,” she explained.
In a statement released yesterday, the Israeli navy said its forces had “redirected” the sailboat in order to prevent a “breach of the lawful maritime blockade” of the Palestinian enclave.
It said this was done “in accordance with government directives and after exhausting all diplomatic channels.”
Hamas denounced the move as “state terrorism”.