The Israeli navy intercepted a French yacht that intended to sail to Gaza Tuesday after it refused to change its course following warnings that it was nearing a blockaded area.
The navy intercepted the French-flagged vessel after it informed the ship that it was nearing the Gaza blockade lines and must change its course to the Ashdod port or Egypt. The ship refused to divert its course, causing Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen Benny Grantz to give the navy permission to take control of the yacht.
The navy told the passengers to prepare for a "calm boarding." There was no resistance and the 15 activists on board were transferred to a naval ship participating in the mission. The passengers were provided with food and water and checked by an IDF doctor. They will be taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod, where they will undergo standard security procedures and transferred to Interior ministry officials and immigration authorities.
IDF spokesperson Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai said the boarding of the ship occurred "as soon as their actions turned into a provocation." The ship's captain had lied to Greek authorities before departing, Mordechai said, claiming he was sailing toward Egypt.
The ship, Dignite-Al Karame, set sail towards the Gaza Strip on Sunday. The ship was the last of the vessels part of a flotilla which sought to break "the siege of Gaza." The other ships were blocked from leaving Greece, due to a ban issued by the country. Flotilla organizer Greta Berlin said the ship declared Alexandria, Egypt as its destination "in order to get out of Greece."
Passengers on the ship included citizens of Canada, France, Greece, Sweden and Tunisia, as well as Israeli Haaretz journalist Amira Hass and a team from Al-Jazeera TV.
On Monday, representatives of the ship issued a statement saying "The presence at sea by the Dignity-Al Karama is a setback for the Israeli government who by force and coercion seeks to perpetuate the illegal and criminal blockade to silence civil society movements around the world."
Hamas condemned the Israeli interception of the ship, disseminating the lie that the Israel attacked "the flotilla in a savage way using violence to terrorize activists onboard the ship."