Israeli Navy intercepts Gaza-bound aid flotilla
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Israeli Navy intercepts Gaza-bound aid flotilla

Ashdod : Israel | Nov 04, 2011 at 9:50 AM PDT
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Israel Navy contacts the vessels and offers them to dock in Ashdod port

Israeli Navy forces have intercepted the two Gaza-bound vessels carrying 27 pro-Palestinian activists.

The Tahrir, a yacht crewed by Canadian activists, was being boarded about 35 kilometers north of the Gaza Strip, activists on board announced Friday afternoon. Contact with the boat ended shortly thereafter.

"We have lost contact with the Tahrir and the (Irish) Saoirse and are hoping for the best, but we fear the worst," said organizer Dylan Penner.

The navy boarded the ships "after all attempts to prevent them from breaking the maritime security blockade failed," said Avital Leibovich, an Israeli army spokeswoman, on Twitter.

She said the boats would be taken to Ashdod port and the crew transferred to police.

The boarding was carried out after calls to the activists onboard, the army said in a statement.

"Following their unwillingness to cooperate, and after ignoring calls to divert to the port of Ashdod, the decision was made to board the vessels and lead them there," the statement said.

A live map created by the US-based Electronic Intifada website showed the boats were still in international waters when the Israeli army made contact on Friday afternoon.

Organizers of the Tahrir and the Saoirse boats, who aimed to break Israel's blockade of Gaza, said forces had at 1:12 p.m. Gaza time requested the final destination of the boats via radio contact.

Crew responded "the conscience of humanity," and upon second request "the betterment of mankind," media liaison for the flotilla Laurence Davis told Ma'an.

The crews were contacted shortly after viewing two Israeli ships rapidly approaching the flotilla at 48 nautical miles off Gaza's coast, Davis said.

The army said in a statement that it "advised the vessels that they may turn back at any point, thereby not breaking the maritime security blockade, or sailing to a port in Egypt or the port of Ashdod."

"The activists refused to cooperate," it said.

The army later released footage of a sailor making contact.

The boats are carrying 27 people from nine countries.

They set sail to Gaza from Fethiye, Turkey, in a secret launch due to accusations in July that Israel tried to sabotage a previous effort, the activists said in a statement Wednesday.

On Thursday, the Obama administration warned U.S.citizens on the boats that they may face legal action for violating Israeli and American law. The activists include Americans and citizens of eight other countries.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S.was renewing its warning to Americans "not to involve themselves in this activity."

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Israeli naval vessels have intercepted a Gaza-bound international aid flotilla seeking to break the crippling blockade of the Gaza strip.
saleh1966 is based in Gaza, Ġazzah, Palestine, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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