Hours after it was seized by naval troops, the Swedish ship Marianne which had taken part in the latest “freedom flotilla” to Gaza, arrived at the Ashdod Port on Monday night.
16 foreign nationals who were on the ship were transferred to the Population and Immigration Authority. The foreign nationals are expected to go through a hearing and will then be deported from Israel in accordance with the law.
The Marianne was one of four boats that took place in the latest flotilla. The other three boats had turned back before the Marianne was seized. The takeover of the Marianne was without incident and no injuries on other side were reported.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu welcomed the operation to take over the vessel and said, "I would like to commend the sailors and commanders of the Israel Navy for their determined and efficient action in detaining the passengers on the ship that tried to reach the Gaza coast in contravention of the law. This flotilla is nothing but a demonstration of hypocrisy and lies that is only assisting the Hamas terrorist organization and ignores all of the horrors in our region. Preventing entry by sea was done in accordance with international law and even received backing from a committee of the UN Secretary General.”
“Israel,” noted Netanyahu, “is the only democracy that defends itself in accordance with international law. We are not prepared to accept the entry of war materiel to the terrorist organizations in Gaza as has been done by sea in the past. Just last year we foiled an attempt to smuggle by sea hundreds of weapons that were destined for use in attacks against Israel's citizens.”
He stressed that “there is no siege on Gaza. Israel assists in transferring goods and humanitarian equipment to Gaza – approximately 800 trucks a day that have recently brought into Gaza more than 1.6 million tons of goods. Moreover, Israel assists in hundreds of humanitarian projects, through international organizations, including the building of clinics and hospitals.”
“Israel is a state that seeks peace and acts in accordance with international law so that the residents of Gaza might have safe lives and their children may grow up in peace and quiet," concluded Netanyahu.
Meanwhile, the Freedom Flotilla Coalition questioned Israel's version of the operation and said on its website that it had "no reason to believe that Marianne's capture was 'uneventful'", according to the AFP news agency.
Hamas, in a statement as well as in comments on Twitter, condemned what it termed the "kidnapping" of the activists, adding that "this ship succeeded in showing the crime of the blockade".