The UN Undersecretary-General and Executive Secretary of UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) issued a statement Monday condemning Israel’s detention former Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki.
Marzouki was aboard a Swedish ship as a part of a Gaza Freedom Flotilla, which was intercepted by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). The IDF boarded and seized the Gaza-bound ship Marianne late Sunday night. The Swedish ship was part of a flotilla that included two other ships, carrying food and building materials to the Gaza Strip.
As well as Marzouki, prominent figures aboard the vessel included Arab-Israeli Member of the Knesset Bassel Ghattas and other activists.
“It seems that Israel considers solidarity with unarmed under-siege civilians a threat to its security,” the UN official Rima Khalaf said.
Khalaf said that Israel “does not abstain from committing the ugliest of crimes to prevent it [solidarity], as it killed 10 Turkish citizens in the sea in 2010.”
Marianne was approximately 150 nautical miles off Gaza’s shore when it was intercepted. The two other ships turned back after news of the ship’s interception. It was not immediately clear what their new destination was.
Marianne was redirected to Ashdod, and was expected to arrive within 12 to 24 hours of its seizure, depending on weather and sea conditions. Its occupants were expected be interrogated before being taken to Ben-Gurion Airport to be flown out of Israel.
“Israel’s control over Gaza’s territorial waters, its airspace, land ports, launching airstrikes against it and committing assassinations in it, is a full-scale occupation,” Khalaf asserted.
She also added that “taking self defence as an excuse” for arresting unarmed activists in the sea, who were not heading to Israeli territories but to territories it occupies and who don’t represent a threat against it, “contradicts any logic”.
“This flotilla is nothing but a demonstration of the hypocrisy and lies that only help Hamas and ignore the atrocities in the region,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said via his Twitter account, following the seizure. He also praised the IDF for the seizure, and defended the blockade, saying that it is in accordance with international law and prevents weapons smuggling to Gaza.
He further defended his government’s policy on Gaza by saying “the Gaza Strip is not under siege”, and that all types of goods enter it via Israel. This statement was accompanied by an infograph alleging that 800 trucks and 1.6m tonnes of food have been allowed into the territory since January.
The Jordanian UN official spoke of admiration for Marzouki, saying that he is a symbol for the first Arab revolution in the 21st century.
“What president Marzouki and his companions did is a practice of a right and a response to the call of conscience to lift the injustice and suffering of 1.8 million civilians under siege in Gaza. What Israel did is aggression and offence,” Khalaf concluded.