At approximately 16:30 local time, the Israeli navy intercepted the Women’s Boat to Gaza. The captured activists are now urging their respective governments to assist in securing their release.
Speaking to VOC’s Drive Time Show, the coordinator for the project in South Africa, Zeenat Adam confirmed that the Zaytouna was intercepted in international waters and that the boat is being redirected to the port of Ashdod.
According to an ariticle publiched by media house, Haaretz, the Zaytouna was captured approximately 35 nautical miles from the shores of the Gaza Strip.
“According to a high-ranking officer, passengers on board the Zaytouna-Olivia offered no resistance when the troops took over the boat,” as stated in Haaretz.
Describing the capture as terrorism of the high seas, Adam says that those on board are peaceful activists, some of whom are in their 70’s.
“There are peaceful activists on board, some are in their 70’s. We have a Nobel Peace Laureate on board and a former United States army colonel on board; women who have peaceful intentions and no intention of entering Israeli waters – their intention is to reach Gaza,” she stated in an earlier interview today.
In September 2016, the Freedom Flotilla Coalition launched two boats, the Zaytouna and the Amal from the shores of Barcelona. While the Zaytouna has thus far successfully embarked on the planned journey, the second boat, Amal, early in its journey experienced engine problems, forcing the crew and activist to return to port.
Since the Zaytouna only has the capacity to accommodate 13 passengers, the 13 passengers scheduled to travel on the Amal were forced to remain on shore in Italy and Barcelona as organizers worked to procure a replacement boat.
The organizers of the flotilla chose participants from around the world, including politicians, members of the media, cultural artists and activists. They include: Nobel Laureate (1976) and peace activist from Northern Ireland, Mairead Maguire; member of New Zealand Parliament and member of the Green Party, Marama Davidson; professional athlete and coach, whose husband was killed on the Mavi Marmara in 2010, Cigdem Topçuoglu, and Wits academic, Leigh-Ann Naidoo.
In light of recent reports that the Israeli Defense Force may intercept the boat and that the women may be deported, on Tuesday, the organizers released a joint press statement urging the South African Government to take action in order to protect the women on board and to ensure that the boat reaches the shores of the Gaza Strip.
The organizers have now called on the South African government to secure their release and are in touch with the South African embassies in both Tel Aviv and Ramallah to ensure Naidoo’s safe return.
Below is the SOS by South African passenger, Leigh-Ann Naidoo.
A link to all the passengers SOS messages: https://wbg.freedomflotilla.org/sos-video-messages-from-zaytouna