The Free Gaza expeditions, designed to break the Israeli siege, have been unable to reach Gaza since November. Twice, on 30 December and 15 January, the Israeli navy forced the boats to turn back. The SS Dignity embarked on its journey from Cyprus on 29 December, carrying 16 people and over three tons of badly needed medical supplies.
In the early hours the next morning, two Israeli gunboats began shadowing the 20-metre yacht. One of them opened fire without warning 30 minutes later, ramming Dignity three times on the front port side. The wheelhouse and part of the upper deck were wiped out, while water flooded through. The crew managed to stop the flow and headed slowly for Tyre, Lebanon.
The attack took place about 90 miles from Gaza in international waters. Captain Denis Healey said the gunboats made no radio contact before the confrontation, but told them to return to Cyprus after and accused them of terrorist activities.
Similarly, SS Spirit of Humanity turned around on 15 January, after five warships surrounded the boat and threatened to use “any means” to stop its progress.
Spirit of Humanity was carrying doctors, journalists and human rights workers – 21 in total – and one ton of medical aid.