Israel expels three Gaza flotilla activists after interception
Swedish boat the Marianne of Gothenburg (L), is escorted by an Israeli navy vessel as they enter the Israeli military port in the city of Ashdod on the Mediterranean shore on June 29, 2015. (AFP/Menahem Kahana)
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Israel on Tuesday expelled three pro-Palestinian activists who were among 18 arrested when the IDF peacefully intercepted a Gaza-bound boat seeking to defy the Jewish state’s naval blockade Monday morning.
The former Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki, Spanish-European parliament member Ana Miranda and an Israeli activist were expelled from the country after the Swedish-registered Marianne of Gothenburg was towed to Ashdod port.
The Israeli-Arab Knesset member Basel Ghattas was released from detention and is expected to face a committee in the coming days that will mull stripping him of some of his parliamentary privileges.
The rest of the activists on board were being held in administrative detention in a Ramla prison, awaiting deportation from the country.
The interception occurred without incident and there were no injuries, the IDF said.
“The (former) president of Tunisia and the Spanish lawmaker flew this morning. There are another 14 who have begun the expulsion process,” a spokeswoman for Israel’s immigration authority told AFP.
Ghattas denounced the possible Knesset sanctions as a “revenge” plot, and told Israel Radio Tuesday that the Israeli Navy had “kidnapped” the so-called Freedom Flotilla III, on its way to deliver humanitarian aid to the Hamas-run coastal enclave.
A hearing due Tuesday on proposed measures against Ghattas was postponed to a later date to allow the Joint (Arab) List lawmaker to attend.
The Marianne was part of a four-boat flotilla of pro-Palestinian activists who had been seeking to reach the Gaza Strip. The three other boats had turned back before the interception for an unknown reason.
The IDF said in a statement that the vessel had been warned “several times” to change course, but had refused.
“Following their refusal, forces visited and searched the vessel in international waters in order to prevent the intended breach of the maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip,” the army said in a statement.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu censured the activists aboard the Marianne as “hypocritical,” and accused them of assisting Hamas while ignoring atrocities across the region.
“Welcome to Israel!” a letter released by the Prime Minister’s Office read. “It appears you’ve made a mistake along the way. Perhaps you meant to sail somewhere not far from here — Syria. There, Assad’s regime is massacring his own people every day with the help of the murderous Iranian regime.”
By Avi Lewis
Editor's note: This article has been edited from the source material
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