Israel deports Swedish Gaza flotilla activist

Swedish–Israeli artist and politician Dror Feiler is among the 15 activists apprehended by Israeli soldiers from the boat Dignité on course for the Gaza strip and is set to be deported today, Israeli immigration authorities have confirmed.

Israel deports Swedish Gaza flotilla activist

“The fifteen passengers were interviewed on Tuesday night and have willingly signed an agreement to leave within 72 hours,” said a spokesperson from Israeli immigration to news agency AFP.

On Tuesday just before noon Israeli soldiers boarded the French boat, the only vessel from the Freedom Flotilla protest convoy to sail towards Gaza.

Shortly before the boarding all communications to the vessel were cut off, according to Ship to Gaza.

According to a spokesperson for the Israeli army (IDF), the soldiers first tried to convince the activists to change direction and were met with refusals.

“Then the vessel was boarded, without violence from either side- it was completely peaceful,” said the IDF spokesperson to news agency TT.

Prior to the boarding several of the activists tweeted that there were four Israeli ships surrounding Dignité.

Following the take over of the vessel, the activists were taken to Ashdod, in southern Israel, where they were interrogated by the police before being handed over to immigration officials.

According to Ship to Gaza Sweden, all the activists have now been moved to a detention centre close to the airport awaiting deportation. They will be allowed to see their lawyer on Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday evening several demonstrations were carried out in Sweden’s major cities on behalf of the captured activists and the mission.

More than 300 activists from 22 countries had signed up to participate in this year’s flotilla, among them dozens of middle-aged and elderly Americans and Europeans.

Israel has made no secret of its determination to prevent the Freedom Flotilla II from reaching Gaza, which has been under a blockade since 2006 after militants there snatched an Israeli soldier who is still being held at a secret location.

The Swedish ship Juliano was forced to give up its attempt to sail to Gaza after it was refused permission to leave Crete.

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Israel intercepts Swedish Gaza-bound activist boat

The Israeli navy intercepted a Swedish-flagged activist boat bent on breaching its more than decade-long blockade of Gaza, the second in less than a week, the military said on Saturday.

Israel intercepts Swedish Gaza-bound activist boat
Photo: TT

“The ship was monitored and was intercepted in accordance with international law,” the military said in a statement, before the vessel, named Freedom for Gaza and carrying 12 people, was taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod.

“The (military) clarified to the ship’s passengers that they are violating the legal naval blockade and that any humanitarian merchandise can be transferred to Gaza through the Port of Ashdod,” the statement said.

The people on board were taken for “further inquiry.”

The organisers of the flotilla said the boat, which was carrying medical supplies, was intercepted in international waters.

“The demands of Ship to Gaza are that the ship with its crew and cargo will be returned to the site of the boarding, and that they will be allowed to go in peace through international and Palestinian waters in accordance to international law,” they said in a statement.

“This is a demand that the eleven years-long illegal and destructive blockade on Gaza will be lifted at last.”

Freedom was the second boat of the “Freedom Flotilla” to be intercepted en route to “break the blockade” on Gaza, organisers said.

Four boats left from Scandinavia in mid-May and stopped in some 28 ports along the way, with two remaining behind after a recent stop in the Italian port of Palermo.

On Sunday, the Israeli navy intercepted a Norwegian-flagged activist boat that was part of the flotilla.

Israel has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in Gaza since 2008 and says the blockade is necessary to keep them from obtaining weapons or materials that could be used for military purposes.

UN officials have called for the blockade to be lifted, citing deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian enclave run by Islamist movement Hamas where 80 percent of the two million population are dependent on aid.