The MV Rachel Corrie
As the “Rachel Corrie” continues to steam towards Gaza, its reception by Israeli forces remains uncertain. Yesterday in this space I quoted Haaretz as saying that Israeli and European diplomats had worked out an arrangement by which the aid ship would dock at Ashdod port in Israel, from where its cargo of humanitarian items would be transshipped to Gaza. However, a press release issued by the Free Gaza Movement office on Cyprus this morning stated that this report “is sabotage in writing. We called Haaretz and the reporter. He did not return our call. We have no intention nor would we ever have any intention of ever docking in Ashdod.”
In another press release issued today, the organization quoted Israeli officials as evidence that the two boats accompanying the “Rachel Corrie” - Challenger I and Challenger II - were indeed sabotaged by Israeli specialists, thus preventing them from proceeding to Gaza. It cites a statement by Colonel Itzik Tourgeman to the Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday saying that “The ships have not reached their target as of today because covert action was taken against them.”
As the global controversy over the IDF raid on the “Freedom Flotilla” last Monday continues to boil over, and the ongoing Gaza blockade swells into a front-page story, Israel is preparing to confront the “Rachel Corrie” and any other vessels that may join it, using force if necessary.
Late last night the Israeli news portal Ynet quoted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a special government meeting as saying: “We shall not allow the ships to reach Gaza. Not now and not later on. We intend to direct the Rachel Corrie ship to the Ashdod Port and transfer its civilian goods to Gaza following a security check.”
Earlier on, a security official told the press: “We will do everything to stop them without casualties,” a security official said. “We are engaging in negotiations with whoever is out there.”
The ship is currently expected to reach the coast tomorrow at 8 a.m. local time. If attacked, its passengers and crew have agreed to sit down and put their hands in the air. There is no word yet on how the Israelis are planning to greet them.