Clever work by the IDF helped reduce international press coverage of the "aid to Gaza" flotilla to practically zero.
Israel Navy commandos boarded the Swedish ship Marianne, part of the anti-Israel flotilla bringing relatively small amounts of aid to Gaza, early Monday morning. As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu explained Monday afternoon, the goods on the ship are equal to approximately 1/500,000th of what Israel has transferred to Gaza.
The flotilla was thus virtually worthless, other than for the purposes of anti-Israel publicity – and these, too, were rendered moot by the IDF. This was accomplished by "stalling" the captured ship and leading it ever so slowly to Ashdod – reaching it only in the late evening hours, well after prime time for the many journalists waiting there.
The 0404.co.il news site noted that this was done purposely in order to avoid the expected negative coverage.
Throughout Monday and Sunday night, before the early morning capture of the ship, the IDF informed the press that it was not clear the boat when the flotilla would arrive. Even after the capture, the IDF announced only that the boat would be taken to Ashdod – but did not announce a specific time. It could have been expected that arrival time would be some time in the afternoon, but in fact, it occurred only shortly before 10 PM – at which time, the IDF Spokesman announced:
"The Marianne arrived at the Ashdod port a short time ago. It was towed by Israel Navy forces during the course of the last few hours. The incident ended without any injuries, neither to our forces nor to the illegal passengers. The latter will be transferred for treatment by the relevant government authorities."
In a modestly-placed article on the topic, The New York Times reported that three other boats following the Marianne, collectively known as the Freedom Flotilla Three, turned back to their original ports after the lead boat was taken. The paper also reported that Netanyahu issued a letter early on Monday to the crew of the Marianne that stated, “If you were truly concerned about human rights, you would not be sailing in support of a terrorist regime which summarily executes citizens in the Gaza Strip and uses children as human shields.” No passengers were interviewed after the ship was taken.