Activist on boat seized by IDF laments world apathy to Gaza
IDF seizes control of Free Gaza Movement's boat after it enters Gaza waters; boat taken to Ashdod.
One of the international activists who sought to sail to Gaza on Tuesday lamented the world's "apathy" to the plight of the Hamas-ruled territory shortly before the Israel Navy seized control of the vessel.
"We didn't come with guns and weapons, but with just humanitarian aid, in an attempt to break the siege of Gaza and to tell the apathetic world about what is happening in the Strip, especially after the last war," said Huwaida Araf in an interview with the Nazareth-based radio station Al-Shams.
She added: "I was born in the United States to a family of immigrants from the [Arab Israeli] village of Ma'ilia, and still have relatives in Israel, and I'm sure that everyone supports my step."
The voyage's organizers, the Free Gaza Movement, said the vessel, renamed the Spirit of Humanity, left the Cypriot port of Larnaca on Monday bound for Gaza with three tons of medical supplies.
The activists were attempting to break a blockade of Gaza, imposed by Israel after the Islamic group Hamas took over the territory in a bloody 2007 coup.
Early Tuesday, the navy surrounded the vessel, which was also carrying humanitarian aid, and told the activists to turn back because of security risks in the area and the blockade, according to the IDF.
But the boat later entered Gaza's coastal waters, the IDF Spokespersons' Office said in a statement, after which a naval force boarded it.
No shots were fired during the boarding of the boat, and the crew was to be handed over to the appropriate authorities, the IDF said.
In the statement, the IDF Spokespersons' Unit added that it "would like to emphasize that any organization or country that wishes to transfer humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, can legally do so via the established crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip with prior coordination."
The army said humanitarian goods found on board the boat would be transferred to the Gaza Strip, subject to authorization.
The 20 passengers include former U.S. Representative Cynthia McKinney, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire and other activists from Britain, Ireland, Bahrain and Jamaica.
The ship was flying a Greek flag, but no Greek citizens were aboard. The Greek government issued a statement saying it sent a message to Israel demanding that it release the ship, crew and passengers.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said Israel was planning to free the crew and passengers. "
Nobody wants to keep them here," he said. "They will be released as soon as they are checked."
The Free Gaza Movement has organized five boat trips to Gaza since August2008, defying a blockade imposed by Israel when the militant group Hamasseized control of the territory from its Palestinian rivals in June 2007.
Two other attempts were stopped by Israeli warships during Israel's three-week offensive against Hamas in the territory in December and January. Nobody on board was harmed.
Israel tightened a blockade on Gaza in 2007 after Hamas seized control of the territory, home to some 1.5 million people.