Israel intercepts boat seeking to break Gaza blockade

Israel intercepts boat seeking to break Gaza blockade

Israel intercepts boat seeking to break Gaza blockade

AFP Photo

Israel on Oct. 5 intercepted a boat carrying women activists seeking to break the country’s decade-long blockade of the Gaza Strip, saying it was boarded without incident and taken ashore.

The navy said it had redirected the sailboat in order to prevent a “breach of the lawful maritime blockade” of the Palestinian enclave “in accordance with government directives and after exhausting all diplomatic channels.” 

The Zaytouna-Oliva set sail from Barcelona in September with 13 women of various nationalities aboard, including 1976 Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland.

Dubbed “Women’s Boat to Gaza,” it is part of the wider Freedom Flotilla Coalition that consists of pro-Palestinian boats that regularly seek to go to Gaza to try to break the blockade.

One such operation turned to tragedy in 2010 when Israeli commandos killed 10 Turkish activists in a raid on a flotilla.

In the Oct.5 operation, the Israeli navy said it intercepted the sailboat after advising it “numerous times to change course prior to the action.” 

It said its forces had boarded and searched the sailboat, describing the operation as “uneventful.” 

On the same day, the United States sharply criticized Israel over plans to build a new Jewish settlement in the West Bank that it said would damage prospects for peace with the Palestinians and contradicted assurances made to Washington. 

The White House and State Department “strongly condemned” Israel’s decision to advance a plan that they said would create a new settlement “deep in the West Bank” and undermine a two-state solution. 

In unusually harsh words for its Middle Eastern ally, Washington also accused Israel of going back on its word. 

“We did receive public assurances from the Israeli government that contradict this announcement,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said at a news briefing. “I guess when we’re talking about how good friends treat one another, that’s a source of serious concern as well.” 

Israel said on Oct. 5. that new houses it was building in the occupied West Bank did not constitute a new settlement, dismissing a strong U.S. condemnation of project. 

“The 98 housing units approved in Shilo [settlement] do not constitute a ‘new settlement’. This housing will be the existing settlement of Shilo and will not change its municipal boundary or geographical footprint,” an Israeli Foreign Ministry statement said.

Meanwhile, a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit an open area inside Israel on Oct. 6 and caused no casualties, the military said, in the second such incident in two days.

The rocket landed in the Eshkol area bordering the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian enclave run by Islamist movement Hamas, an Israeli military statement said.

“Forces are searching the area,” it said.

A rocket that landed in a road in the Israeli city of Sderot on Oct. 5 led Israel to respond with air strikes and tank shelling of Hamas posts in Gaza.