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MV Rachel Corrie Boarded, Diverted to Ashdod

Activists aboard the MV Rachel Corrie, carrying humanitarian supplies toward Gaza, ran up against the Israeli blockade. This time, nobody was killed or injured, but the ship was boarded and diverted to the port at Ashdod.

Today’s operation was mounted despite growing calls for Israel to ease its siege of Gaza significantly. The US, Israel’s staunchest ally, said the blockade was “unsustainable and must be changed”.

Israel said it had met no resistance in stopping the 1,200-ton Rachel Corrie. “They complied with us completely,” an Israeli military spokeswoman told the Observer.

Greta Berlin of the Free Gaza Movement, the main organisation behind the flotilla, said the passengers and crew had four times refused to accede to Israeli demands to divert to Ashdod voluntarily.

“There’s no way that 20 people are going to resist a fully armed force,” she said. “The fact that Israel boarded a civilian boat in international waters is a violent act.”

With the world paying more attention to the blockade and the movements of humanitarian ships, the threat of violence was reduced. But the IDF still cut the communications of a sailing vessel in international waters, and then boarded the ship.

Late last night, the White House, through National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer, made a statement asking the MV Rachel Corrie to voluntarily sail to Ashdod, but also calling the current blockade “unsustainable.”

The Government of Israel has stated its desire to avoid a confrontation and a repeat of Monday’s tragic events on the Mavi Marmara. It remains a U.S. priority to provide assistance to the people of Gaza. In the interest of the safety of all involved, and the safe transmission of assistance to the people of Gaza, we strongly encourage those on board the Rachel Corrie and other vessels to sail to Ashdod to deliver their materials to Gaza.

We are working urgently with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and other international partners to develop new procedures for delivering more goods and assistance to Gaza, while also increasing opportunity for the people of Gaza and preventing the importation of weapons. The current arrangements are unsustainable and must be changed. For now, we call on all parties to join us in encouraging responsible decisions by all sides to avoid any unnecessary confrontations and to ensure the safety of all involved.

The passenger terminal with Egypt now opens daily. Practically no country on Earth thinks the blockade is proper, let alone legal. Nobody buys the Israeli argument that they are solely protecting their security through the blockade; it’s as much, if not more, about economically depriving the Gaza Strip. Though the Likud government has shown no interest in responding to international pressure, it must continue to be placed.

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David Dayen

David Dayen