The Israel Defense Forces Grabs Lebanon aid ship bound for Gaza
Lebanon aid ship bound for Gaza taken to Israel port
Archbishop who ran arms to PLO said aboard seized Gaza aid ship
The Israel Defense Forces on Thursday confirmed that its navy had taken control of a Lebanese ship carrying aid to the Gaza Strip and redirected it to the Israeli port of Ashdod.
Military sources said that on board the vessel - dubbed the "Brotherhood Ship" - were nine people, including Greek-Catholic Archbishop of Jerusalem Monsignor Hilarion Capucci, who was arrested in 1974 after caught smuggling weapons from Lebanon to activists in the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Capuccini was sentenced to 12 years in prison, but was released after three years upon a papal request to the Israeli government. He has made frequent anti-Israel comments since his release.
The IDF said that naval forces had intercepted the ship after its crew had disregarded warnings to steer clear of Gazan coastal waters, but denied reports that troops had fired shots at the crew or the vessel during the operation.
"The actions of the boat crew raised suspicion, as it could threaten security concerns, or furthermore, the boat could be used for smuggling banned equipment [weaponry, etc.] in to or out of the Gaza Strip," the IDF said in a statement.
"As a result of the actions taken by the boat crew, an Israel Navy force intercepted, boarded, and took control of the cargo boat, directing it towards Ashdod," the IDF said, adding: "No gunshots were fired on board during the boarding and capturing of the cargo boat."
The army said that the crew of the ship would be detained for questioning by the Israel Police and that all humanitarian goods found on board would be transferred to the Gaza Strip.
Speaking in Tel Aviv following the incident, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the navy "prevented the ship from entering Gaza waters. The ship was directed to el-Arish in Egypt, but the crew decided to turn and try again to reach Gaza." He said that "the navy stopped the ship, and it was being escorted to Ashdod port."