Arms smuggling by sea

A boat with rocket-producing materials was stopped on its way to Gaza. (IDF)

The Israeli Navy intercepted a vessel attempting to break Israel’s legal blockade on Gaza. All humanitarian aid to Gaza must enter via Israel in order to prevent the smuggling of arms to Hamas and other terrorist organizations.

The Israeli Navy successfully intercepted a Swedish-registered vessel illegally headed towards Gaza early Monday morning. The three other ships participating in the flotilla turned back to their ports of origin.

In order to prevent the smuggling of arms to Hamas and other terrorist organizations, Israel does not allow foreign vessels to enter Gaza directly. This blockade has been ruled legal under international law by the UN.

The Swedish vessel, the Marianne of Gothenberg, was stopped about 100 nautical miles from shore after repeatedly ignoring orders by the Israeli Navy to change course. According to a statement by the IDF, “Following their refusal [to obey orders], 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 forces have reported that use of force was unnecessary and that the process was uneventful.”

‘A Demonstration of Hypocrisy and Lies’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement, saying, “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.”

Iranian arms to Gaza

Iranian arms on a ship to Gaza that was seized by Israel’s navy in 2014. (IDF)

“We are not prepared to accept the entry of war material to the terrorist organizations in Gaza as has been done by sea in the past,” the premier asserted. “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.”

“There is no siege on Gaza,” Netanyahu stated. 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.”

The Marianne was transporting 18 passengers, including former Islamist President of Tunisia Moncef Marzouki and Israeli parliamentarian Basel Ghattas. The ship was then escorted to the Port of Ashdod, from where the foreign passengers are being deported. The flotilla organizers have not explained why the three other vessels abandoned their course instead of continuing to Gaza.

The Prime Minister’s Office provided a copy of a letter distributed to the passengers of the Marianne, in which Netanyahu quipped:

“Welcome to Israel. You seem to have gotten lost. Perhaps you meant to sail to a place not far from here – Syria, where Assad’s army is slaughtering its people every day, and is supported by the murderous Iranian regime.”

Israeli Aid to Gaza Equals 500,000 Boatloads

On a more serious note, he continued: “Here in Israel we face a reality in which terrorist organizations like Hamas try to kill innocent civilians. We defend our citizens against these attempts in accordance with international law.”

Trucks carrying humanitarian aid from Israel into Gaza. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Trucks carrying humanitarian aid from Israel into Gaza. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

“Despite this,” he added, “Israel transports goods and humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip – up to 800 trucks a day. In the past year we enabled the entry of over 1.6 million tons of products, an average of one ton per person in the Gaza Strip. By the way, these supplies are equivalent to 500,000 boats like the one you came in on today….

“We will not allow the terrorist organizations to transfer weapons into the Gaza Strip by sea. Only one year ago, we thwarted an attempt to smuggle hundreds of weapons into the Gaza Strip by ship. These weapons were meant to target innocent Israeli civilians.”

Despite the fact that the UN had ruled that Israel’s and Egypt’s joint blockade on Gaza are legal under international law, Israel faces periodic attempts by self-styled human rights activists to break through the blockade. The most famous of these incidents occurred in 2010, when passengers on the Turkish Mavi Marmara ambushed the Israeli soldiers intercepting the boat. The IDF found weapons on board the vessel, and the UN report on the incident noted “serious questions about the conduct, true nature and objectives of the flotilla organizers, particularly IHH,” an Islamic organization that has been accused of maintaining ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda.

By: Sara Abramowicz, United with Israel