Flotilla activists to be deported: Israel

Date: 7/19/2011

JERUSALEM – Fifteen activists held after Israeli forces intercepted their boat as they attempted to sail to Gaza will be deported on Wednesday, an Israeli official told AFP.

Sabine Hadad, spokeswoman for Israel's immigration service, confirmed that the 15 passengers, including 11 French citizens and others from Sweden, Canada and Greece, would be sent home.

"The 15 passengers were interviewed on Tuesday evening by our services and have voluntarily agreed to sign a document saying that they are ready to leave in 72 hours," Hadad told AFP.

"In principle, they will be placed on board flights leaving this Wednesday for Athens, Paris, Toronto and Stockholm," she said.

The 15 passengers, along with an Israeli journalist, were taken into custody on Tuesday afternoon, when Israeli naval forces surrounded the French–flagged Dignite/Al Karama as it neared the coast of the Gaza Strip.

Israeli forces boarded the vessel and sailed it and the passengers to the southern port of Ashdod, where the Israeli reporter –– Amira Hass of the left–leaning Haaretz newspaper –– was released.

The remaining passengers were interviewed by immigration services in Holon, near the northern city of Tel Aviv.

The Dignite/Al Karama was the only ship remaining from a 10–vessel flotilla that had planned to sail to Gaza this summer.

The plans for the full flotilla were called off after several vessels suffered damage that activists blamed on Israeli sabotage, and

Greece refused to let boats docked at its ports set sail for the Palestinian territory.

The Dignite/Al Karama had sailed from the Greek island of Kastellorizo on Saturday evening, telling coast guards it planned to head to the Egyptian port of Alexandria.

Greece said it was refusing boats permission to head to Gaza in order to protect the activists on board, after an attempt in May 2010 by a six–boat flotilla to reach the blockaded Palestinian territory ended in bloodshed.

Israeli commandos raided the ships as they neared Gaza, killing nine Turkish activists and prompting both an international outcry and a deep crisis in relations between the Jewish state and Ankara.


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