|Dignite/Al Karama off some shore somewhere|
Israeli warships on Tuesday surrounded a French yacht carrying pro-Palestinian activists as they neared the coast of Gaza in a bid to breach the Israeli blockade, an organiser told AFP.
Organisers said Israeli navy vessels had surrounded the Dignite/Al Karama in international waters, some 40 nautical miles off the Gaza shoreline, at around 0630 GMT and all communications were cut shortly afterwards.
News that Israel had stopped the ship was roundly denounced by Gaza's Hamas rulers, who decried it as "a new act of Zionist piracy."
"The boat is surrounded by at least three Israeli ships and since 9:06 am (0706 GMT) all the communications have been jammed. We can't get in touch with them by phone or by Internet," French organiser Julien Rivoire told AFP by phone from Paris.
In a separate statement, the organisers urged the French government "to take its responsibilities and to protect the passengers, and to call on Israel not resort to violence."
The Israeli military confirmed it had made contact with the boat, which is carrying 16 people, including three crew members and three journalists.
"The Israel navy is currently in a dialogue with the activists on board the Al Karama in an attempt to dissuade them from continuing on their route into an area under a maritime security blockade," a statement said.
"The Israel navy will allow the organisers and passengers to re-route at any point, prior to the boarding of Israel navy soldiers."
Activists on board the ship were told they will not be allowed to reach Gaza under any circumstances and advised to change course for the Egyptian port of El-Arish, an Israeli military source told AFP.
"They contacted the boat and said: 'We won't let you reach Gaza under any circumstances, but you can head for El-Arish if you want,'" he quoted the naval commandos as saying.
The international political effort and the other efforts (see also here) leading up to the sailing of this one boat and the non-sailing of the other 9 has been interesting to watch. For those of you unfamiliar with the "law" of blockade, read this from the San Remo Manual setting out the appropriate blockade rules for parties to an armed conflict:
SECTION II : METHODS OF WARFARESo, the question you have to ask yourself is, "Are Israel and Hamas-governed Gaza in a state of armed conflict?"
93. A blockade shall be declared and notified to all belligerents and neutral States. 94. The declaration shall specify the commencement, duration, location, and extent of the blockade and the period within which vessels of neutral States may leave the blockaded coastline. 95. A blockade must be effective. The question whether a blockade is effective is a question of fact. 96. The force maintaining the blockade may be stationed at a distance determined by military requirements.97. A blockade may be enforced and maintained by a combination of legitimate methods and means of warfare provided this combination does not result in acts inconsistent with the rules set out in this document. 98. Merchant vessels believed on reasonable grounds to be breaching a blockade may be captured. Merchant vessels which, after prior warning, clearly resist capture may be attacked. 99. A blockade must not bar access to the ports and coasts of neutral States. 100. A blockade must be applied impartially to the vessels of all States. 101. The cessation, temporary lifting, re-establishment, extension or other alteration of a blockade must be declared and notified as in paragraphs 93 and 94. 102. The declaration or establishment of a blockade is prohibited if: (a) it has the sole purpose of starving the civilian population or denying it other objects essential for its survival; or(b) the damage to the civilian population is, or may be expected to be, excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated from the blockade. 103. If the civilian population of the blockaded territory is inadequately provided with food and other objects essential for its survival, the blockading party must provide for free passage of such foodstuffs and other essential supplies, subject to: (a) the right to prescribe the technical arrangements, including search, under which such passage is permitted; and(b) the condition that the distribution of such supplies shall be made under the local supervision of a Protecting Power or a humanitarian organization which offers guarantees of impartiality, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross. 104. The blockading belligerent shall allow the passage of medical supplies for the civilian population or for the wounded and sick members of armed forces, subject to the right to prescribe technical arrangements, including search, under which such passage is permitted.
The FreeGaza.org side of the sage of the sailing of Dignité :
It is in large part because the Dignité commenced its voyage from a French port and the French government refused to interfere with this civilian human rights initiative that the ship continues its mission. The Dignité and its passengers – from France, Canada, Greece, Sweden, and Tunisa – represent a flotilla that was delayed by acts of sabotage and by an egregious act of complicity by the Greek government with Israel’s human rights violations and policy towards Gaza that the International Committee of the Red Cross determined to be “collective punishment.” But they also represent the steadfastness and determination of the flotilla movement to sail until the blockade is broken. The idea that Freedom Flotilla II could be stopped misunderstands the nature of this non-violent movement and its strength of purpose.A blockade by definition is designed to "cut off" an armed adversary from the rest of the world, except as provided by the San Remo Manual.
Despite most of the ships being unable to leave Greek ports, the flotilla nonetheless managed to highlight the vicious nature of Israel’s policy towards Gaza. Israeli leaders showed their willingness to use intimidation, lies, economic blackmail, threats of violence, and sabotage to stop boats that Israeli military officials admitted would not be carrying weapons. This clearly demonstrates that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is not based on “security”, but is meant to punish the Palestinian people, denying their freedom and keeping them cut off from the rest of the world.
It should also be noted that Egypt has opened its border to Gaza thus mooting much of the "cut off from the world" argument.