Two Norwegians held after Israel ship siege
Israeli authorities are holding two Norwegian citizens after their ship carrying aid to the Gaza Strip was boarded in international waters by the Israeli military.
The ship Marianne of Gothenberg was part the Freedom Flotilla III, a convoy of ships attempting to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, sent by the Ship to Gaza pressure group.
Ship to Gaza has made several attempts, all of them unsuccessful, to break the blockade. An Israeli military raid on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara in 2010 left ten Turkish activists dead.
Marianne was boarded early on Monday morning 100 nautical miles off the Gaza coast by three Israeli military vessels.
Ship to Gaza have complained that as the ship was boarded in international waters, the action of the Israeli forces was illegal.
The two Norwegians on board were the helmsman Herman Reksten and the Al-Jazeera journalist Ammar Al-Hamdan.
In an interview with Norway’s NRK broadcaster prior to Monday’s events, Reksten said that he expected the ship to be boarded by the Israeli armed forces.
He is a veteran of the freedom flotilla’s 2012 attempt to reach Gaza, when the ship Estelle was boarded.
”We were allowed into Israeli waters before we were arrested for illegal entry,” he said. We expect the military to take strong action this time as well. Israel has said that they will not let us through. But solidarity with Gaza is more important for us.”
Both the Swedish and Norwegian governments have protested the boarding of Swedish flagged Marianne and the arrest of the activists and crew on board
”We are asking that the Norwegians are released immediately so that they can go home, “ Frode Overland Andersen from the Norwegian foreign ministry told NRK. "We hold Israeli authorities responsible for the treatment of our citizens.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has commended the action by the Israeli navy.
"This flotilla is nothing but a demonstration of hypocrisy and lies that is only assisting the Hamas terrorist organisation and ignores all of the horrors in our region," Netanyahu said to Al-Jazeera.