The 19 activists and crew on the Irish-owned ship Rachel Corrie are set to be expelled from Israel on Sunday after their Gaza-bound ship carrying aid supplies was intercepted by Israeli commandos Saturday and rerouted to the port of Ashod.
AFP- Israel was set to expel 11 pro-Palestinian activists as early as Sunday, a day after intercepting their ship trying to carry aid directly to the Gaza Strip in defiance of a blockade.
The Rachel Corrie aid ship was escorted to the southern port of Ashdod on Saturday after being seized by the Israeli navy, with no repetition of the bloody violence when commandos stormed another Gaza-bound aid boat last Monday.
The 11 activists and eight crew on board were taken to the Holon immigration centre near Tel Aviv for questioning, before being transferred to Ben Gurion international airport for deportation as early as Sunday, officials said.
The expulsion of the activists, six Malaysians and five Irish nationals, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire, has been delayed by their "refusal to sign a waiver of an appeal against such a measure before Israeli courts," said an Israeli immigration service spokeswoman.
"We are trying to convince all of the passengers and members of the crew to sign the document. Otherwise, in accordance with the law, they risk having to wait up to 72 hours for a judge to decide their fate," she added.
The Israeli military said its forces boarded the Rachel Corrie -- named after a US activist killed in 2003 as she tried to prevent an Israeli bulldozer from razing a Palestinian home -- "with the agreement" of those on board.
FRANCE 24 speaks to Israeli army spokesman Edouard Cukierman in Ashdod and Hamas spokesman Youssef Rezqa.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the operation.
"We saw today the difference between a ship of peace activists, with whom we don't agree but respect their right to a different opinion from ours, and between a ship of hate organised by violent Turkish terror extremists," he said.
Saturday's outcome stood in stark contrast to a botched navy operation against a six-ship flotilla on Monday, which ended in the deaths of nine activists -- eight Turks and a US-Turkish citizen.
But the latest takeover prompted a furious response from the Dublin-based Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
"For the second time in less then a week, Israeli forces stormed and hijacked an unarmed aid ship, kidnapping its passengers and forcing the ship toward Ashdod port," it said.
The Rachel Corrie was carrying around 1,000 tonnes of aid and supplies, half of which was reportedly cement which is barred by Israel which fears it could be used by the Islamist group Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip to build fortifications.
Saturday's operation came at a sensitive time, with Israel diplomatically isolated after Monday's deadly raid.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters the United States was in touch with Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Ireland to "avoid a repeat of Monday's... tragic events."
That raid unleashed fury, with several thousand people protesting across Europe on Saturday, including an estimated 10,000 in Istanbul.
"Murderer Israel!" chanted demonstrators in Turkey's largest city. Many wore headbands reading: "Keep your hands off the boats!" in Hebrew and English.
Turkish prosecutors are reportedly examining the possibility of prosecuting Israeli leaders over the raid.
Angry protesters chanting anti-Israeli slogans and waving Palestinian and Turkish flags also took to the streets of Dublin, Edinburgh, London and Paris as well as other French cities.
In Lebanon, two pro-Palestinian groups launched a fund-raising campaign to buy a ship which they hoped to sail to Gaza next week.
Date created : 2010-06-06