The Irene, known as the Jewish Boat to Gaza, has been intercepted by the Israeli navy, on Tuesday, and is currently in transit to the Israeli port city of Ashdod.The Irene, known as the Jewish Boat to Gaza, has been intercepted by the Israeli navy, on Tuesday, and is currently in transit to the Israeli port city of Ashdod.
The 10 foot catamaran, bearing the British flag, left Cyprus on Monday with the desire to reach the coastline of Gaza, and was taking passengers from the U.S., U.K., Germany and Israel, all of whom are Jewish, including two journalists.
Included in the delegation are Reuven Moskovitz, an Israeli Holocaust survivor, and Lilian Rosengarten, an U.S. citizen and refugee from Nazi Germany.
The boat was initially contacted by the Israeli Navy and 0700 GMT, who requested that the boat identified the nationalities of those on board and their intended destination. At this point the boat was between 20 – 25 miles from Gaza’s coast.
The ship suffered from repeated blockages to their communication system, but during a brief interlude where their equipment was not jammed, one of those on board, Rami Elhanan, spoke with Israel’s Ynet News. He stated,
“We are surrounded by at least 10 Navy ships… They are demanding that we stop and threatening that if we fail to do so, it may end with casualties.”
Mr. Elhanan, an Israeli citizen whose daughter was killed in a suicide bombing at a shopping mall in Jerusalem in 1997, had previously said that it was his ‘moral duty’ to support of Palestinians in Gaza as reconciliation was the surest path to peace.
The last contact came with the ship’s captain at 0937 GMT, who said that the boat’s path had been cut off by an Israeli Destroyer ship, a warship that generally measures approximately 510 feet, when the boat was inside of 20 miles to the coastline, the established limit for Israel’s naval blockade.
Since then contact cannot be made with the Irene, but several news outlets have reported that she has been boarded and captured, and is subsequently being towed to Ashdod.
According to a press release from the boat’s organizing group, Jews For Justice For Palestine, Smadar Ben Natan, the Israeli attorney representing the passengers, has requested immediate access to her clients, and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel have requested that an independent doctor is allowed to visit with the passengers as one of those on board suffers from a chronic issue to their health.
The release also contains a statement from Richard Kuper, of the organizing group speaking in London, condemning the capture of the boat and saying that, “[t]he way [The Irene] is being treated by Israeli authorities indicates that they have no real intentions of reaching peace.”
This boat sailed in the week following the U.N. releasing it’s findings into to the Israeli Navy’s capturing of a group of vessels, on May 31st 2010, on their way to deliver humanitarian aid known as the Freedom Flotilla.
The report established that the Israeli Navy was guilty of carrying out extra-judicial killing, some of which were classified as executions, along with the practice of torture in the restraining of other non-violent activists.
The report found that the boardings were illegal, due to said ships being in international waters, that excessive force was used in the taking of the vessels, and that the Israeli soldiers were not under any significant threat of harm to their lives.
The Israeli Navy has kept the coastline of Gaza blockaded since 2007, claiming that they must prevent the transfer of arms to the Hamas movement. Their actions have included the firing at, and destruction of fishing vessels outward bound from Gaza up to 2 miles form the sea shore.
The Gaza Strip has sovereignty over it’s water up to twelve miles, and their fishermen the right to work in these waters. The actions of the Israeli military has cut off one of the major sources of the coastal enclave’s economy.
For more information on the Irene, please visit jewishboattogaza.org