Gaza-Bound Activists: IDF Soldiers Attacked Us During Boat Interception

Four warships, a Black Hawk helicopter, 10 fast-patrol boats and several other vessels were required to intercept the lone sailboat Estelle on Saturday, three Israelis who were on board told Haaretz on Wednesday.

The Israel Navy intercepted the pro-Palestinian activists' boat off the Gaza coast to prevent it from running Israel's blockade of the Strip.

The armed male soldiers and officers who boarded the Estelle were all masked, while the female soldiers were bare-faced, the activists said.

Conscientious objector Yonatan Shapira, an inactive Israel Air Force pilot, said he recognized the Black Hawk circling above by its number as one of the aircraft he had flown during his IDF service.

The soldiers boarded the Estelle and immediately tasered people on the upper and lower deck who blocked the way to the boat's bridge, activists Elik Elhanan (doctoral student in Yiddish literature) and Shapira said.

Elhanan said he was attacked several times with a taser and was injured. He still suffers from bruises and burns, he said. Swedish journalist Maria-Pia Boethius, 70, was also attacked with an electric shocker. Shapira was tasered and suffered injury to his shoulder.

In keeping with their decision, the activists did not resist the soldiers, but didn't obey their orders either.

Activist Reut Mor, a social groups media adviser, reported to the bridge during the Israeli takeover, with details of who was being attacked and handcuffed.

After the men near her had been "neutralized" and taken away, the female soldiers were called to search her, and did so in front of all the male soldiers, Mor said. One of the male officers instructed them to "let her have it," she said.

The female soldiers pulled her clothes off harshly, groped her, pulled her shirt off her in front of the male soldiers and pulled down her bra, baring her breast.

The other women were also searched in front of the male soldiers, but were not stripped as she was, Mor said.

The soldiers recognized Elhanan, whose sister Smadar was murdered in a terror attack in Jerusalem in September 1997. "They said I should beware and was going to pay for it," he said. One of the soldiers called him a "leftist" while he dragged him on the ground.

The soldiers concentrated all the activists and collected their belongings, documents and money. Some of the people said they did not receive their belongings and money when they were released. Elhanan could not find his raincoat.

Masked military personnel interrogated some activists, especially the crew members, inside the boat.

On Sunday the Ashdod Magistrate's Court dismissed the police's charge that the Israeli activists' transgression was "knowingly aiding the enemy and inciting to rebellion with published material." But the court extended their remand by three days.

On Monday their appeal was granted and they were released to a day's house arrest. On Tuesday they were summoned to a police interrogation on suspicion of breaking the "infiltration law from 1954." Elhanan said they all invoked their right to remain silent.

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