Israeli Naval Forces Seize Gaza-Bound Aid Ship Rachel Corrie

Israeli naval forces seized control of another humanitarian aid ship headed for Gaza early Saturday.

The Irish vessel, the Rachel Corrie, named after the US citizen who was intentionally crushed by an Israeli Army bulldozer in Gaza in 2003, refused demands by Israeli defense forces to dock in Ashdod. It was intercepted in international waters.

According to the New York Times, “there were no resistance or injuries, and the military said the ship’s crew and passengers fully complied with the boarding.”

“Our forces boarded the boat and took control without meeting any resistance from the crew or the passengers. Everything took place without violence,” a military spokeswoman told Agence France-Press, saying no shots had been fired.

AFP further reported:

The ship and the 15 people on board, most of them Irish or Malaysian activists, was being escorted into the southern Israeli port of Ashdod from where the aid would be transferred to Gaza through land crossings, the military said.

Canada’s CTV reported that the Rachel Corrie was “carrying about 1,000 tons of aid, including wheelchairs, medical supplies and cement.”

Passengers, CTV news said, included Nobel Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire and are largely affiliated with the group Free Gaza.

The organization said in statement that the Rachel Corrie was tracked by Israeli ships for two hours prior to the raid and the Israeli navy jammed the vessels equipment.

The capture of the Rachel Corrie took place a week after Israeli commandos stormed a flotilla bound for Gaza from Turkey, killing nine pro-Palestinians and wounding 48 others. Except for the United States, the raid, which also took place in international waters, has drawn widespread condemnation.

The ship, the Mavi Marmara, was one of six vessels that aimed to break the sea blockade of Gaza.

According to Reuters:

…Autopsy results showed that a 60-year-old man, Ibrahim Bilgen, was shot four times in the temple, chest, hip and back, the Guardian said.

A 19-year-old, named as Fulkan Dogan, who also has U.S. citizenship, was shot five times from less than 45 cm (18 inches) away, in the face, the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back, it said.

Two other men were shot four times. Five of those killed were shot either in the back of the head or in the back…

Israel said that the commandos were acting in self-defense. In a statement Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued to vilify the Gaza activists aboard the Turkish ship, calling them “Islamic extremists” and alleging they “waited for our troops on decks with axes and knives.”

Much of Israel’s claims about the events that lead up to the raid aboard the Mavi Marmara and the circumstances behind the deaths of the activists have been wholly discredited.

Netanyahu said Israeli forces who took part in Saturday’s raid “used the same procedures for Monday’s flotilla” but “were met by a different response” from the activists.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich has called for an independent investigation of the incident.

In a letter addressed to President Barack Obama, which Kucinich is circulating to colleagues for their signature, the Ohio Democrat said “their must be consquences for the Netanyahu administration and the State of Israel.”

No one questions the right of Israel to defend its border, but that defense does not extend to shooting innocent civilians anywhere in the world, anytime it pleases.

Israel must account for our support, for the lives of our soldiers, for the investment of billions from our taxpayers. Israel owes the United States more than reckless, pre-meditated violence waged against innocent people.

The attack on the Mavi Marmara requires consequences for the Netanyahu Administration and for the State of Israel. Those consequences must be dealt by the United States. They must be diplomatic and they must be financial. The U.S. can begin by calling for an independent international inquiry of the Mavi Marmara incident. The integrity of such inquiry necessitates that it not be led by the nation whose conduct is under scrutiny. If our nation fails to act in any substantive way, the United States licenses the violence and we are complicit in it and our own citizens will be forced to pay the consequences.

It is unknown how many lawmakers, if any, have signed the letter.