Israel Seizes Gaza Aid Freighter: No Arms Abroad, Aid Not Delivered

Archbishop of Jerusalem Captured, Sent to Syria

by Jason Ditz, February 05, 2009

The Israeli Navy captured an aid ship bound for the Gaza Strip today, arresting those on board and towing the ship to the Israeli port of Ashdod for inspection. Early reports indicated that the ship was fired upon before its capture, though the military insists they were only “warning shots.”

The ship, called Brotherhood by the activists, contained no weapons nor does it appear to have contained any banned materials (the Israeli government has banned numerous goods, such as clothing and shoes, from the Gaza Strip citing their potential threat to the Israeli populace). The ship contained exactly what one would imagine an aid ship would carry: water, food and medicine, though since seizing the vessel the amount contained therein has mysteriously and precipitously fallen over that which the ship apparently left Lebanon with.

The passengers captured on board the ship appear to have all been released at this point, most of them sent to the Lebanese border. One of the captives, the Archbishop of Jerusalem Hilarion Capucci, was sent to Syria instead. The archbishop’s capture is likely to further inflame tensions between the Israeli government and the Vatican.

The Israeli government defended the move, saying the aid ship was violating the naval blockade in trying to bring food and medicine to the people of the Gaza Strip. Arab League officials and regional governments have urged the United Nations Security Council to press Israel to release the cargo, and Arab League Envoy to the United Nations Yahya Mahmassani called the incident “an act of piracy.”

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