Early on the morning of May 31, Israel Defense Forces naval forces intercepted six ships attempting to break the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The intercept took place after numerous warnings from Israel and the Israel Navy that were issued prior to the action. The Israel Navy requested the ships to redirect toward Ashdod, where they would be able to unload their cargo which would then be transferred to Gaza over land after undergoing security inspections. The IDF stressed that the passengers could then return to their point of departure on the same vessels.
During the interception of the ships, the demonstrators onboard attacked the IDF naval personnel with live gunfire as well as light weaponry including knives, crowbars and clubs. The demonstrators had clearly prepared weapons in advance for this specific purpose.
According to reports from sea, on board the flotilla that was seeking to break the maritime closure on the Gaza Strip, IDF forces apprehended two violent activists holding pistols. These militants apparently grabbed the pistols from IDF forces and opened fire on the soldiers.
The activists were carrying 10,000 tons of reported aid to Gaza. Israel provides 15,000 tons of aid weekly to Gaza.
As a result of this life-threatening activity, naval forces employed riot dispersal means, including, when they determined that their lives were in immediate danger, live fire. According to initial reports, these events resulted in at least 9 deaths among the demonstrators and numerous injured.
A number of Israeli naval personnel were injured, some from gunfire and others from knives and crowbars. Two of the soldiers are seriously wounded and the remainder sustained light injuries.
All of the injured, Israelis and foreigners, are currently being evacuated by a fleet of IDF helicopters to hospitals in Israel.
Reports from IDF forces on the scene are that some of the participants onboard the ships had planned a lynch-mob attack, using lethal force on the boarding forces.
The events are still unfolding. The ships have been berthed in the Ashdod port, where IDF naval forces will perform security checks in order to identify the people on board the ships and their equipment.
The IDF naval operation was carried out under orders from the political leadership to halt the flotilla from reaching the Gaza Strip and breaching the naval blockade.
Other important facts:
The provocateurs were organized by an Islamist organization that has links to fundamentalist jihadi groups. The extremists brought small children on board knowing that they intended to violate international maritime law.
The activists were carrying 10,000 tons of what they said was aid. Israel transfers about 15,000 tons of supplies and humanitarian aid every week to the people of Gaza.
Israel has said that it will deliver any humanitarian aid to Gaza, as it does daily.
"We fully intend to go to Gaza regardless of any intimidation or threats of violence against us, they are going to have to forcefully stop us," said one of the flotilla’s organizers. Using the Arabic term ‘intifada,’ Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said "We call on all Arabs and Muslims to rise up in front of Zionist embassies across the whole world. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said this week: "If the ships reach Gaza it is a victory; if they are intercepted, it will be a victory too."
Israel left Gaza in hopes of peace in 2005 and in return received more than 10,000 rockets and terrorist attacks.
No country would allow illegal entry of any vessel into their waters without a security check.
Earlier this week, Noam Shalit, father of Hamas-held Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, approached the flotilla's organizers asking them to take supplies to Gilad. He was refused.
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