Israel Begins Deporting Gaza Flotilla Activists

Before boarding vessels, the navy repeatedly informed the ships that they were approaching an embargo zone, ordered the ships to reroute to Ashdod or Egypt, and told that supplies would be sent to Gaza.

Israel Navy commandos on Friday intercepted two ships carrying 27 activists that had set sail on Wednesday from Turkey toward Gaza. Some of the activists have already left the country, while others are in detention, where they await deportation.

The takeover of the vessels - one Irish and one Canadian - occurred some 45 nautical miles from the Gaza coast at 3 P.M. on Friday.

Flotilla - IDF Spokesman’s Office - November 2011
IDF Spokesman’s Office

Before boarding the vessels, the navy repeatedly informed the ships' captains that they were approaching an embargo zone. They were ordered to reroute to Ashdod or an Egyptian port, and told that their supplies would be sent to Gaza overland.

The navy blacked out external communications on board the ships to prevent them from sending and receiving messages.

Majid Kial, from Haifa, who was aboard the Canadian vessel, said that during the takeover, "They put a gun to my head and the head of another activist who was very elderly."

The Israel Defense Forces said no violence was used in taking over the vessel.

According to statements to the press, the ships were carrying medical supplies, but no such supplies were found on board.

Kial was released on bail Friday evening. Two Greek crew members and an Egyptian journalist were released yesterday and left the country. Two Al Jazeera journalists were released after they pledged to leave Israel this morning. The rest are being detained at Ramle Prison until they leave the country in the next few days.

Haaretz has learned that the activists told lawyers who visited them in detention that they would not sign a pledge vowing not to repeat their actions or a document stating that they came to Israel illegally. They say they were forcibly brought to Israel.