ASHDOD: Three Jewish activists who tried to bust Israel’s blockade on Gaza were on their way out of Israel on Tuesday night and a fourth was awaiting deportation, their lawyer said.
Israeli warships on Tuesday intercepted the boat named "Irene" 20 nautical miles off the coast of the Gaza Strip, and took it the port of Ashdod in southern Israel.
Attorney Smadar Ben-Natan said "two English and an American" were at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport awaiting flights and the other, a woman, was being kept in custody overnight.
"We shall only be able to see her tomorrow," she told AFP.
The German woman, nurse Edith Lutz, was in custody after refusing to be deported, organizers said Wednesday.
Lutz had initially refused deportation until the five Israeli passengers on the boat were released from custody — which happened late on Tuesday.
She was being held at a detention center in Ramle near Tel Aviv and would stay there until Sunday, when she will be deported after a hearing, a spokeswoman for the activists said.
Ben-Natan said five Israeli nationals who sailed with the four foreigners on the Irene had been released without being charged pending further inquiries.
Organizers Jews for Justice for Palestinians listed on their website Briton Glyn Secker as the vessel’s captain and a member of its executive committee and named US peace activist Lillian Rosengarten as one of the passengers.
Photographer Vish Vishvanath’s nationality is not given but his own website describes him as London-based.
Ben-Natan said one of the Israelis, former combat pilot Yonatan Shapira, had been subdued with a stun gun as he passively resisted attempts to separate him from his brother Itamar after the Israeli navy boarded the British-flagged catamaran.
"An Israeli naval officer gave him an electric shock," she said. "He wasn’t resisting arrest, (the brothers) were hugging one another so they wouldn’t be separated."
A statement from the organizers said Yonatan had recovered from the shock and was in good health, as was 82-year-old Holocaust survivor Reuven Moskovitz, an Israeli with a heart condition.
The military said "there was no violence of any sort" during the operation.
Army footage of the incident filmed from the air showed two navy corvettes coming alongside the boat, and commandos scrambling on board and taking control. There were no signs of violence.
Describing the boat’s attempt to reach Gaza as a "provocation," the military said the captain had ignored repeated warnings and had entered a closed naval zone, prompting the interception.
Organizers confirmed the activists had surrendered without a struggle.
Also on Wednesday, Northern Ireland Nobel laureate and peace activist Mairead Maguire was fighting a legal battle over the right to enter Israel after her involvement with an aid boat to Gaza, her lawyer said.
Maguire flew to Israel on Tuesday but was refused entry at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv.
Officials said she was not allowed in because of her deportation in June after she tried to reach Gaza by boat in defiance of an Israeli naval blockade.
At the airport, Maguire was told she would not be allowed in to Israel for 10 years.
Lawyers for the Adalah legal rights group obtained an injunction preventing her deportation early on Wednesday and were due to attend a hearing at Petah Tikva court near Tel Aviv to debate her case.
"She spent the night in the detention center at the airport and will now attend the hearing," Adalah lawyer Fatmeh Al-Ajou told AFP.
Maguire was one of 19 activists on board the Rachel Corrie which tried and failed to reach Gaza in early June, a week after Israeli forces mounted a botched raid on a six-ship flotilla heading for the coastal enclave that left nine Turkish activists dead.
The 66-year-old planned on her latest visit to lead a delegation of women on a week-long tour of Israel and the Palestinian territories to highlight the work of women peace activists.
The Irene carried a small, token cargo of aid, including children’s toys, musical instruments, textbooks, fishing nets and prosthetic limbs.
The Israeli military said that following a security check the load, which a spokeswoman said amounted to "a few bags" would be allowed to enter the Gaza Strip by land.
In May, Israeli forces intercepted a six-ship flotilla heading for Gaza but the raid went badly wrong and nine Turkish activists — including one with US citizenship — were killed, prompting a wave of international condemnation.
Israel said its troops resorted to force only after they were attacked while rappelling onto the deck of the lead ship. Pro-Palestinian activists on board said the soldiers opened fire as soon as they landed.
Israel and Egypt sealed Gaza’s borders after Hama captured an Israeli soldier in June 2006 and tightened the blockade a year later when the Islamist Hamas movement seized power, allowing in only humanitarian aid.
Israel eased the closures to allow in all purely civilian goods in the aftermath of the deadly flotilla raid, but still restricts dual-use items such as construction materials that could be used to build militant fortifications.