Israel navy boards Gaza-bound activist ship: military

Israel navy boards Gaza-bound activist ship: military

JERUSALEM - Agence France-Presse
Israel navy boards Gaza-bound activist ship: military

AFP Photo

Israel's navy on Saturday boarded a boat carrying pro-Palestinian activists and parliamentarians seeking to breach Israel's blockade of Gaza, in a peaceful operation, the military said.

"A short while ago, Israeli navy soldiers boarded Estelle, a vessel which was en route to the Gaza Strip, attempting to break the maritime security blockade," said a military statement.

The statement indicated that the Finnish-flagged vessel was being led to the southern Israeli port of Ashdod.

"There was no violence," a military spokeswoman told AFP, saying troops had taken control of the Finnish-flagged MV Estelle. "The passengers did not resist." The announcement was made shortly after organisers told AFP the ship had "come under attack" shortly after being approached by Israeli vessels at a point some 35 nautical miles off the Gaza coast.

The military said the boarding was carried out only after "numerous calls to the passengers" which went unanswered.

"As a result of their unwillingness to cooperate and after ignoring calls to change course, the decision was made to board the vessel and lead it to the port of Ashdod," the statement said, indicating troops "did not need to use force." On arrival at Ashdod, the ship's passengers would be handed into police custody and then onto the immigration authorities.

Activists on previous Gaza-bound flotillas which were stopped by the navy have all been taken to Israel and immediately deported.