Israel seizes Gaza flotilla ship in international waters

Israel seizes Gaza flotilla ship in international waters
Concerns mount for campaigners on board the Marianne, the flagship of a Gaza-bound flotilla, including former Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, after Israel seized the vessel on Monday.
3 min read
29 June, 2015
The flotilla was invited by Palestinians through numerous organisations [Getty]

Israel's military forcefully blocked a vessel attempting to break the naval siege of Gaza early Monday, redirecting it to an Israeli port, activists have said, as concerns mount for the fate of leading figures on board including ex-Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki.

The Freedom Flotilla coalition released a statement saying "three Israeli navy boats had surrounded the Marianne ship in international waters" shortly after which they had lost contact.

Israeli naval forces boarded Marianne and "searched it in international waters, detaining all on board" the group said.

The coalition said in a post on Twitter that the ship was currently en route to Ashdod port. It is expected to arrive in Ashdod in 12 to 24 hours.

Zaher Birawi, head of the International Committee for Breaking the Siege of Gaza, confirmed to al-Araby al-Jadeed that contact with Marianne was interrupted, but reassured the safety of those who were in the ship.

Marianne was carrying about 20 activists, including Israeli Arab lawmaker Basel Ghattas and former Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki.

Tarek Kahlaoui from Marzouki's Citizen People Movement told al-Araby al-Jadeed that they had lost contact with the former president at 1:00am Monday.

Kahlaoui explained that the flotilla "got very close to territorial waters" but then "the ship was stormed and its crew kidnapped" adding that their "fate is now in the hands of the Israeli occupation".

The official said that "Marzouki is defending a noble cause".

Tunisian cabinet press chief Moez Sinawi told al-Araby al-Jadeed that the presidency is closely following any developments concerning the flotilla, pointing out that coordination with the Tunisian foreign ministry is ongoing.

Birawi added that the blockade by the Israeli government was "expected" which is why they had not released all ships at the same time, adding that the second could be launched into waters soon. 

Petros Stergiou, a member of flotilla's media team in Athens, said the group would continue its acts of protest until the blockade of Gaza was lifted.

"Israel’s repeated acts of state piracy in international waters are worrying signs that the occupation and blockade policy extends to the entire eastern Mediterranean" he said.

"The government continues this policy of non-tolerance, which means that it will continue to enforce the collective punishment against the 1.8 million people in Gaza."

A 2010 raid against a Gaza-bound flotilla was boarded by Israeli troops in international waters, killing nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists. It sparked international outrage delivered a serious blow to its previously close ties with Turkey. 

Israel and Egypt have maintained a siege on Gaza since Hamas took power in 2007.  

The Jordanian parliament expressed its full support and solidarity with the Freedom Flotilla and all efforts to break the siege on Gaza, the country's parliament speaker said.

"Jordan will shoulder its duty to protect the fleet and its peaceful mission and work to prevent the Israeli naval attack," Atef Tarawneh added.