Israel treats peaceful people peacefully

ISRAELI Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the peaceful ending to a stand-off between the navy and Gaza-bound foreign aid ship the Rachel Corrie, which concluded without violence. "We saw today the difference between a ship of peace activists, with whom we don't agree but respect their right to a different opinion from ours, and between a ship of hate organised by violent Turkish terror extremists," the premier's office cited him as saying.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed the Navy boarded the boat and took control without meeting "any resistance" from the crew or the passengers. "Everything took place without violence," she added.

The stand-off follows Monday's bloody raid on a flotilla of Gaza-bound aid ships where nine activists were killed following a raid by Israeli commandos, sparking world-wide condemnation.

The Rachel Corrie crew initially refused to respond to four requests from the navy to head for the southern port of Ashdod and stayed its course for the Gaza Strip, which is under an Israeli naval blockade.

Activists on board the ship previously indicated they would not heed Israeli calls to change course and would continue to head for their destination - although they were prepared to let their cargo be inspected. However, the ship was intercepted by the Israeli Navy in international waters shortly after dawn, with troops holding back from boarding the vessel for several hours. It later entered Ashdod five hours after it was commandeered by Israeli forces.

But the takeover prompted a furious response from the Dublin-based Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign. "For the second time in less than a week, Israeli forces stormed and hijacked an unarmed aid ship, kidnapping its passengers and forcing the ship toward Ashdod port," it said.

In a statement, the Israeli Defence Forces defended their actions under international law. "The rules of warfare allow the capturing of naval vessels prior to their actual violation of a naval blockade," it said. "This is dependent on the vessels being on their way to a blockaded area, being outside the territorial waters of neutral states and when there is a substantial likelihood (based on credible evidence) that the vessels intend to violate the blockade.


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