The three Israeli activists who were arrested for trying to breach the Gaza blockade by sailing on the Estelle were released from custody and placed under house arrest Monday.
Reut Mor, Yonatan Shapira, and Alik Elhanan were accused of incitement and violating Israel’s disengagement from Gaza.
After receiving the activists’ petitions, Yael Raz Levy, a Beersheba District Court judge, ruled that they be transferred to house arrest until midnight Tuesday.
A 79-year-old former Canadian MP, arrested aboard the 174-foot schooner, called on Monday for Ottawa to secure his release from Israel. The son of Jim Manly, a former New Democratic Party MP from Vancouver Island, issued a statement urging Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to contact Israeli authorities and defend him.
“If Canada and Israel are the close allies that the prime minister has said they are, then he should be able to secure my father’s release with one quick phone call,” the statement read, according to CTV News.
The Estelle’s passengers and crew, some 30 individuals, also included activists and politicians from Greece, Sweden, the US, and Norway. After setting out from Sweden three months ago, the Estelle had docked at several Europeans ports, where passengers held media conferences to raise awareness of the humanitarian situation in Gaza. It set sail for the Hamas-run enclave from Naples, Italy, earlier this month.
Sailing under the Finnish flag, the Estelle was reportedly carrying two olive trees as well as 41 tons of cement, toys, medical equipment and books.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday praised the IDF for succeeding in its mission. He said the Estelle’s passengers aimed only to provoke and slander Israel, adding that no humanitarian equipment was found on board.
The ship was intercepted at 10:15 a.m. Saturday by the IDF, which said that masked IDF soldiers boarded the vessel without employing the use of force. The Navy “took every precaution necessary to ensure the safety of the passengers. After the vessel was boarded by IDF soldiers, who did not need to use force, the passengers were attended to and offered food and beverages,” the IDF said in the statement.
The ship was rerouted to the port of Ashdod, where it arrived just after 8 p.m. local time on Saturday.
Shapira, one of the Israelis arrested aboard the boat, accused the IDF of using taser guns against the activists during their takeover of the Estelle.
Speaking to his mother Saturday night from inside the Ashdod police station, where he and other activists were taken after their arrest, Shapira said he and the two other Israeli activists were in good condition, Ynet News reported.
Leehee Rothschild, one of the activists who greeted the passengers in Ashdod, claimed that the three Israeli nationals were “unnecessarily held on the boat most of the day, and only brought into the police station in Ashdod after 1 a.m. Sunday.
“The activists were prevented from speaking to their families for more than a few minutes — as soon as they started describing the violence they encountered from the IDF, they were dragged away for questioning,” Rothschild continued.
Israel has maintained an air and sea blockade of Gaza for the stated purpose of preventing weaponry reaching the Strip, from which rockets and mortar shells are frequently fired into Israel. Hamas, an Islamic group committed to Israel’s destruction, seized control of the Strip in a violent 2007 takeover from Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah-led Palestinian Authority.
Under heavy international pressure, Israel eased the closure in 2010 after a naval raid killed nine Turkish activists on board a vessel in a previous Gaza-bound flotilla, the Mavi Marmara. Naval commandos seeking to commandeer the Marmara were attacked by violent activists as they boarded.
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