The two vessels attempting to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip reached the Ashdod Port, after Navy forces intercepted the ships and towed them to Israel. Saturday, 05.Nov.2011, 03:04 (GMT+3)
Navy forces tow Irish-Canadian flotilla ships to Ashdod Port after successful take over, say no weapons or humanitarian aid found. Immigration Authority holds hearing for 4 out of 27 Pro-Palestinian activists to be deported out of Israel.
The two vessels attempting to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip reached the Ashdod Port, after Navy forces intercepted the ships and towed them to Israel. The Immigration Authority has taken four out of the 27 flotilla activists to a hearing prior to their deportation from Israel.
Onboard one of the ships were 12 passengers and another 15 activists on another, including one Israeli citizen. All 27 pro-Palestinian activists were trasferred over to the police and Immigration Authority and expected to be deported from the country.
Earlier Friday Navy forces boarded the vessels in a peaceful take over, IDF officials remarked that they did not find any weapons onboard the ship. The troops boarded the vessels without any resistance and no one was hurt, the military said.
An IDF spokesman said earlier the operation was completed according to the decision made by the political echelon and after several attempts to speak with the activists.
According to the IDF statement, the Navy informed the activists they can turn back and avoid breaking the blockade. They were also offered to sail to a port in Egypt.
The two vessels approached the Gaza Strip and were in close proximity to Israeli territorial waters. The Navy made initial contact with the ships, the IDF Spokesperson's Unit said. IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz has ordered the Navy to stop the ships, but the takeover has yet to begin.
"The activists did not heed the Navy's calls and refused to act according to the legal possibilities that stand before them. The vessels continue to make their way towards the blockade area," the IDF said earlier on Friday.
One activist said that the Israeli ships were12 nautical miles from the flotilla ships, which is 45 NM from the Gaza coast.
Photo of Palestinian flag taken by Iranian journalist on board ship
Asked what their final destination was, the activists replied "the human compass" and later changed their answer to "betterment of humanity."
One of the flotilla organizers said that the activists pledged in writing not to resist or confront Israeli naval forces.
"The two ships are close to Israel's waters and their crew has been instructed not to resist naval forces who will attempt to stop them," Denis Kosseim told AFP. "Our representatives have signed a document where they pledged not to resist in case Israeli forces board the ship. We hope they will be able to return unharmed," Kosseim added.
The flotilla consists of one Canadian ship called Tahrir and an Irish yacht. On board the vessels are 27 activists, crewmen and journalists, including one Iranian reporter.
Vessels approach Gaza Strip
According to the organizers, the ships carry $30,000 worth of medical equipment for the people of Gaza.
Defense officials believe that the activists' main aim is to cause provocation rather than help the Palestinians. Naval forces are planning to offer them to dock in Egypt or in the Ashdod Port and transfer the equipment to Gaza for them.
On Thursday, the ships were forced to slow down mainly due to stormy weather. "The last message we received from them was that they slowed down," an activist in the West Bank told Ynet.
"They said they prefer reaching Gaza in the daytime, to maximize their media exposure," they said.