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IDF Exercises Sovereignty off Gaza, Arrests Pro-Arab Activists

by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

(IsraelNN.com) The IDF arrested 15 Arab fishermen and three International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activists Monday after their fishing boats veered into Israeli territorial waters. It was the first time the foreigners have been arrested since the pro-Arab "Free Gaza" movement began testing Israeli sovereignty in August.

They have broken Israeli sovereignty four times by landing at Gaza without authorization and without interference from Israeli authorities before Tuesday's arrests.

The Foreign Ministry originally said it did not want to create a media circus over arrests on the high seas. Further sailings were allowed by the office of the Prime Minister and the IDF, possibly out of fear of injuries to the activists, who have included European legislators.

The detained activists were identified as Andrew Muncie from Scotland, Darlene Wallach from the United States and Victor Arrigoni from Italy, all of whom were turned over to immigration authorities at Ben Gurion Airport for deportation. One of them is staging a hunger strike, and pro-Arab leaders from the Free Gaza movement charged Israel with "kidnapping them."

An IDF spokeswoman explained that the fishing boats wandered into prohibited territory and ignored orders to halt. "They interfered with security patrols," the spokeswoman explained. "The ISM activists are provocateurs, and the IDF allows fishing in permitted waters."
The activists accompany the fishermen to encourage them to sail beyond the allowed limit and claim that Israel's exercised sovereignty over the Gaza Coast violates the Oslo Agreements. The government has stated in the past that it will control the air and sea so long as the Palestinian Authority, which has been replaced by Hamas in Gaza, does not control terror.
The activists previously have charged the Navy with chemical warfare by spraying water cannons that drenched them with "a chemical substance." IDF spokesmen laughed off the allegations as ridiculous and said that "routine and acceptable" measures are taken when boats stray beyond legal limits.

The IDF also denied allegations that machine gunfire has been used to ward off the boats. Radio Netherlands reported that the fishing boats bear bullet holes, and it quoted an unnamed Arab's claim   that fishermen come under fire on a daily basis.

Muncie, one of the activists who was arrested, accused the Navy of throwing explosives into the sea in order to destabilize the boats. Radio Netherlands also reported claims that two fishermen have been killed and at least four others wounded. The IDF denied the claims.