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Israel to deport all 19 on board intercepted ship

By Harinder Mishra
June 06, 2010 15:26 IST
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Israel will deport all 19 passengers and crew onboard the Rachel Corrie aid ship intercepted by its Navy while trying to breach the country's blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The aid ship, named after a US activist killed in 2003 as she tried to prevent an Israeli bulldozer from razing a Palestinian home, was intercepted by the Israeli Navy on Sunday.

"They (the activists and crew) will be all deported from Israel within the next 24 hours," Israel Police Spokesman Micky Resonfeld said today.

"Malaysian nationals (on board the detained ship are being) transferred to Jordan from where they will go back to their country while the rest will be flying from the Ben- Gurion International Airport," he told PTI in Jerusalem.

Out of the 19 people onboard the ship, 11 are pro-Palestinian activists and the rest crew members. Government sources said Israeli government will pay for the deportation of activists and crew members apprehended on the aid ship.

The 19 people -- all citizens of Ireland, Britain, Malaysia, the Philippines and Cuba -- were sent to an Immigration Authority Facility in Holon city after the Israel navy intercepted the ship.

The seizure came just days after Israeli Naval commandos in a predawn raid stormed a civilian flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to blockaded Gaza Strip, killing nine people.

The European Union, Russia and Turkey have called on Israel to end its blockade of Gaza. The international community was closely following the developments and Israeli response after the deadly incident last Monday when the flotilla was stormed.

Despite international outcry, Israel had reiterated its resolve to stop the Rachel Corrie ship from reaching Gaza. The 11 activists had earlier said that they will not resort to violence if the Israeli army intercepts the ship but would try to reach Gaza if left unhindered.

Meanwhile, Israeli media reported that the country's military and political leadership are at loggerheads blaming each other for the bungled operation against the Gaza aid flotilla.

Insufficient intelligence available for the operation, which was carried out by elite Naval commandos, also raised eyebrows on Israel's spy agency Mossad's role for failing to properly judge the situation.

Though Israel has been putting up a brave front outwardly justifying its raid on the ship on the grounds of preserving its autonomy, but political leadership and military suspects the other of trying to blame it for the fiasco and consequent crisis, daily 'Ha'aretz' reported today.

The politicos are pointing finger onthe operation's inadequate planning in the navy and faulty intelligence due to which the commandos lacked a proper understanding of the kind of confrontation awaiting them.

The General Staff, however, has reportedly said thatit was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak who were complacent about the flotilla and assessed that the raid would not raise such world reactions.

It appears that the debate in the seven ministers' forum prior to the raid was relatively superficial and did not go into the operation's details, the daily reported.

Netanyahu was in Canada during the raid and cut his visit short to return to Israel following the international condemnation in the wake of the incident.

It has now also become obvious that cooperation among the various groups preparing for the Gaza aid ships arrival was deficient, the report said.

The Israel navy and General Staff had held dozens of advance meetings over weeks during preparations stage, but none of them involved other relevant offices like the foreign ministry or government public relations experts.

It turns out that due to the restricted involvement, the Israel Defence ForcesĀ  led the preparations not only for the operation itself but for all aspects. Israel navy commander, Admiral Eliezer Marom, and other officials in the navy drafted the operation with the participation of Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and his deputy, Major General Benny Gantz.

The IDF has blamed espionage agencies for not properly using resources in gathering intelligence about the flotilla, Ha'aretz said.

The General Staff's intelligence section will examine the possibility that intelligence that could have improved the navy's preparation for taking over the ships was "stuck in the pipes" and did not reach the Navy in time, it said.

The Israel navy is defending the raid's operative plan and claims it provided adequate solutions even to the unexpected circumstances on board. However, criticism of the operation in the IDF is increasing.

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Harinder Mishra in Jerusalem
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