On Friday, the Israeli naval ships blocked two international ships which were carrying pro-Palestinian activists who were trying to run the blockade on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
The Canadian ship Tahrir (Liberation) and the Irish-flagged Saoirse (Freedom) and were intercepted by Israeli naval commandos in international waters near the Gaza coast, blocking the latest attempt to reach the coastal enclave.
The source explained that Israel’s navy soldiers “boarded the vessels which were en route to the Gaza Strip, trying to break the maritime security blockade that is in place in accordance with international law”, further adding that the “vessels were being sailed to Ashdod port in Israel…on arrival, those on board would be transferred to the custody of the police.”
The boarding came after the two ships refused to heed calls to change course, prompting military Chief of Staff Benny Gantz to order their interception.
Dublin-based organisers of the Irish boat disclosed that they had been contacted by those on board just before 1:00 pm (1100 GMT) to say that they were being “rapidly” approached by two Israeli warships, with first radio contact made some 15 minutes later. Afterwards, the Canadians also verified radio contact had been made, in a posting on Twitter. “Israeli war ship… ‘What is Tahrir’s final destination?’ Our response: ‘The betterment of mankind’,” they pointed out.
The last time a boat tried to reach Gaza was in July, when a French-flagged yacht, the last remaining boat of an earlier flotilla, was intercepted by the Israeli navy some 40 nautical miles off the coast. The Irish boat is carrying 15 passengers and crew members.