The 2011 flotilla saga ended quietly yesterday when the only vessel to actually sail for Gaza was boarded without incident. As Isabel Kershner reports in The New York Times, the ship’s crew lied to Greek authorities about their destination – claiming to be sailing for Egypt before diverting in international waters and heading towards Gaza. Then, when the Israeli authorities were certain of its destination and had given up on convincing the crew to change course, the ship was boarded by Israeli naval commandos.
On Tuesday morning the Israeli Navy made contact with the yacht and requested that it change course, a call that the vessel ignored. The Israeli military released a recording of a radio exchange with someone on board, who said the vessel was a “private cruiser boat,” that it carried no cargo, and that its final destination was Gaza.
Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the Israeli military’s chief spokesman, said that the captain had lied to the Greek authorities during its voyage, telling them that the yacht’s destination was Egypt.
“After dialogue reached a dead end, naval commandos boarded the yacht and took control of it without facing resistance,” General Mordechai continued.
As this blog noted yesterday, the ship had since abandoned all pretences of being an “aid mission” and was now a self-professed “political statement”. It is noteworthy, therefore, that the takeover was reportedly so quiet. The commando unit that boarded this ship, Shayetet 13, is the same unit that was involved in last year’s flotilla – where it came under severe criticism for supposedly using “excessive violence” and was repeatedly accused by certain critics of “shooting first and thinking later”. The incident last night would seem to vindicate the commandos, providing further evidence that, as they maintained, they only responded with violence in the face of violent resistance and as an act of self defence.