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Israeli Navy takes control of aid boat headed for Gaza

Small ferry carrying medical supplies that set sail from Cyprus Monday with 21 peace activists, medical supplies intercepted off Strip's shore; passengers say army jammed boat's radio signals

Ali Waked, Anat Shalev
Published: 06.30.09, 16:18 / Israel News

At around noon Tuesday the Israeli Navy intercepted and took control of a boat that had set sail for the Gaza Strip with three tons of medical supplies, Palestinian sources said, adding that the Navy jammed the boat's radio signals.

 

The IDF Spokesperson's Office confirmed the report. Israeli military sources said there was no violence after the small ferry, sailing from Cyprus with activists from the US-based Free Gaza Movement, was intercepted off Gaza.

 

"The vessel, which was sailing under a Greek flag, left Larnaca, Cyprus on Monday en route to Gaza. After it was made clear that the boat was headed for Gaza's shore, it was told that Gaza was under a naval blockade. In light of this and the security hazards in the region, its entrance to Gaza was forbidden," the army said in a statement.

 

The army stressed that despite the warnings, the boat continued sailing toward the Strip. "The Navy vessel's crew took control of the boat and led it to the Ashdod port," said the military.

 

Earlier Tuesday, "Free Gaza" founder Greta Berlin told Ynet that at around 11:00 am six Navy vessels approached the boat and ordered it to stop some 50 kilometers off Gaza's coastline. Despite the order, the boat continued to sail towards the Hamas-ruled territory, said Berlin, who is currently in Cyprus.

 

Berlin said that the communication with the boat had been disrupted from 1:40-6:00 am, adding that its GPS and navigation systems had been blocked by the Navy, forcing the crew to navigate with the use of a compass alone.

 

The boat is also carrying 21 peace activists, including former US Congresswoman Cynthia Ann McKinney (D-GA) and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire.

 

Activist Luvana Masarwa, a 30-year-old east Jerusalem resident, said Monday that passengers "are excited about the possibility of contributing to breaking the siege."

 

"We want to show the Palestinian people in Gaza that they are not alone, and call on the international community to take a more active role in resolving the situation," she said.

 

Reuters contributed to the report 

 

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