In an act violating international maritime law, Israeli naval forces boarded a humanitarian aid ship, the SV Estelle, that was en route to the Gaza Strip bringing humanitarian aid supplies including musical instruments and building materials. These are among the thousands of items still banned by Israeli forces from entering Gaza.The SV Estelle, which bears the flag of Finland, was guided into the Israeli port of Ashdod (formerly known as the Palestinian town Isdud before the Israeli takeover and expulsion of the indigenous inhabitants in 1948). The 30 passengers and crew, which include a former Canadian parliament member and several former members of the Israeli military who have since renounced the Israeli occupation of Palestine, have all been taken into custody by the Israeli military.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu issued a statement praising the Israeli navy for intercepting the ship, saying that the aim of the humanitarian aid activists was to ‘delegitimize Israel’, and claiming that ‘there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza’.
The attack on the international aid ship comes just days after a leaked document from the Israeli government revealed that Israeli officials had calculated the amount of food necessary to hold every Gazan man, woman and child to a 2,279 calorie ‘diet’, and allowing just that amount of food to trickle into the besieged coastal Strip. This kind of calorie count and collective punishment of a population is a direct violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory.
In addition, just two weeks ago the United Nations issued a report stating that the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is so severe that the entire Strip will be uninhabitable in less than 15 years. Currently, two thirds of the population of Gaza depend on United Nations food aid for survival.
Imports and exports of goods and services to and from the Gaza Strip were brought to a grinding halt in 2006 when Israel imposed its ground, sea and air blockade of Gaza. The Israeli airforce had previously bombarded and demolished the newly-constructed Gaza International Airport, and have since tightly controlled the airspace over Gaza. The only air traffic allowed is the Israeli airforce missions to bombard the residents of the Gaza Strip.
Eva Manly, the wife of former Canadian legislator and ship passenger James Manly told the Associated Press, ‘It’s hard to imagine what threat one sailboat, loaded with humanitarian supplies and a small number of people, could do to Israel’s military’.
A spokesperson for the Hamas party in Gaza called the Israeli seizure of the ship an act of piracy.