After four calls to change course from Gaza to Ashdod were ignored, Israeli troops were reported to have boarded the Irish-flagged Rachel Corrie some 28 miles out to sea and sailed it to the Israeli port of Ashdod after the ship's pro-Hamas passengers stood by their determination to break the Israeli blockade.
No violence or injuries were reported.
Midday Saturday, June 5, the cat and mouse game between the Israeli Navy, with orders to keep the ship from entering Gaza and the pro-Hamas activists aboard the ship reached its climax. Israeli calls transmitted to the Rachel Corrie ever since dawn met with no response.
Earlier reports during the morning elicited a denial from the Israeli military spokeswoman that troops had boarded the Irish-flagged ship. "At this minute, there's no takeover," she said cautiously.
Turkish security sources quoted Prime Minister Recep Erdogan as preparing to go beyond abusive rhetoric against Israel and considering using his navy to break Israel's siege of Gaza – or even sailing aboard the next flotilla to break the blockade in person on the assumption that Israel would not dare stop him.
According to debkafile's sources in Ankara, the Obama administration is in contact with the Turkish PM and trying to cool him down.
Mike Hammer, spokesman of the National Security Council, urged the Irish boat to sail to Ashdod and deliver materials for Gaza there in the interests of avoiding a confrontation and protecting their own safety and the safe transmission of assistance to the people of Gaza.
Regarding the Gaza blockade, he said "the current arrangements are unsustainable and must be changed." The US is working urgently with Israel, the Palestinian Authority and other international partners," he said, "to develop new procedures for delivering more goods and assistances to Gaza while preventing the importation of weapons."
But for now, the US official called on all parties to act responsibly.
Friday night, Rachel Corrie's 20 passengers rejected a deal reached between the Israeli and Irish governments for UN and Irish officials to attend Israel's inspection of the cargo before sending it overland to the Gaza Strip, insisting on sailing straight to Gaza and delivering the materials themselves. They were also unresponsive to an earlier Israeli offer by Foreign Ministry Director-General Yossie Gal inviting the activists on board the Rachel Corrie to accompany the shipment to the Gaza border.
"We will cooperate with the UN and international organizations in order to ensure that all of the cargo is put to the use of Gaza's citizens," said the Israeli official.
In Washington, Turkish ambassador Namik Tan said his government would break relations with Israel unless it apologized for the commando raid on its flotilla for Gaza which left 9 activists dead after they attacked the troops. In Ankara, prime minster Recep Erdogan said Friday, June 4: "I do not think Hamas is a terrorist organization. They are Palestinians in resistance, fighting for their own land."
Switching from Turkish to Hebrew and English he quoted the Ten Commandments back at Israel saying: Thou shalt not kill."