Greek Coast Guard Seizes Canadian Ship Bound for Gaza

Canadian ship 'Tahrir' tries to set sail for Gaza after Greek authorities had banned the departure of all ships to Gaza from its ports; all passengers due to be detained once returning to Greek port.

The Canadian ship "Tahrir", participating in the flotilla to Gaza, attempted to depart Monday from the Greek port of Agios Nikolaos, but was intercepted by the Greek coast guard shortly after departure.

The Greek coast guard sprayed water on the ship in an attempt to deter the activists, and eventually boarded the Canadian ship after the Greek authorities had banned the departure of all ships to Gaza from its ports.

Greek takeover of Canadian ship in Gaza flotilla - Amira Hass - July 4, 2011
Amira Hass

As the Canadian ship departed from the port with all passengers on board wearing life vests, and was able to sail for several minutes while a Greek coast guard ship was distracted by two activists sailing kayaks near the coast. However, the Greek coast guard quickly tracked the ship in the water and boarded it approximately eight miles off the Greek coastline. 

After seizing the ship, two coast guard officers and eight police officers boarded from the rear while most of the activists were on the bow. Once on board, they asked to identify the captain but the passengers refused to reply, with every passenger saying that he was the captain.

Canadian ship in Gaza flotilla - Amira Hass
Amira Hass

Some of the passengers yelled "release our ship!" and one of the protesters asked two coast guard officers whether they had children, and whether they were thinking about the children in Gaza.

After boarding the ship, one police officer told the passengers that he was good friends wit hthe captain and that he had mixed feelings, although he did not go into great detail as to why. Several of the passengers stated that the soldiers told them to "not be frightened". No violence was reported during the takeover of the ship.

Greek coast guard officers are currently sailing the Tahrir back to the port, and the passengers are all due to be taken into custody by Greek authorities.

On Sunday, the organizers of the Gaza flotilla announced that the flotilla ships anchored in Greek ports are planning to set sail to Gaza on Monday. The decision came despite the Greek's governments ban on any ships to depart from its ports to Gaza.

On Monday, as a compromise, the Greek government offered to send the flotilla's humanitarian aid to Gaza with Greek diplomats, under United Nations supervision. Israel has agreed to the offer.