Gaza blockade: Israel deports activists from the Rachel Corrie aid ship
In stark contrast to Israel's deadly Gaza flotilla raid last week, no activists aboard the Gaza-bound Rachel Corrie humanitarian ship were killed. Israel began deporting the activists on Sunday.
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The Rachel Corrie set out for Gaza after nine activists were killed Monday when Israel raided an aid-laden flotilla headed for the impoverished Palestinian territory.
This time, no one was killed or injured when Israeli commandos boarded the ship and took its crew and activists into custody. But last week's incident continues to have far-reaching consequences as thousands protest Israel’s actions across the world, and Turkey threatens to cut relations with Israel.
Al Jazeera reports that Israel has begun deporting the 19 activists and crew members arrested on the Rachel Corrie Saturday. Six of the Malaysian crew members were released into Jordan, and a Cuban activist injured in the boarding of the Mavi Mamara last week was also released.
The Rachel Corrie, named for an American activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza in 2003 while protesting, was taken to the port of Ashdod, where Israel is inspecting its cargo.
The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reports that its cargo included concrete needed for reconstruction in Gaza after Israel’s devastating offensive there last year, medical equipment, wheelchairs, and school supplies. An Israeli naval commander said that any cargo that could not be used by Hamas for weapons or defense would be sent into Gaza by land.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the commandos who boarded the Rachel Corrie used the same techniques as those who raided the Mavi Mamara, and said the differing outcomes were a result of the different responses of the activists on board each ship.
"Today we saw the difference between a flotilla of peace activists - with whom we disagree, but whose right to a different opinion we respect - and a flotilla of hate organized by violent, terrorism-supporting extremists," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday following the takeover.
Even as the Rachel Corrie was intercepted, the wave of vessels attempting to break Israel’s blockade on Gaza will apparently continue.
Israeli news site YNet reports that two Lebanese organizations have announced they will send another ship as early as next weekend. The effort is organized by the Free Palestine Movement and Reporters without Borders. The organizations said the ship would attempt to carry aid and reporters to the Gaza strip.