Israeli forces, on Monday, intercepted a vessel carrying pro-Palestinian activists, who were trying to reach the Gaza Strip in an attempt to break the Israeli blockade of the Palestinian territory, Al Jazeera reported Monday. The vessel, which was leading a convoy of four ships carrying foreign activists, was later forced to sail to an Israeli port.
The Israeli army said in a statement that there was no violence involved in the incident, in which troops boarded the ship and searched the vessel before redirecting it to the Israeli city of Ashdod. The interception of the flotilla happened after the vessel disobeyed a warning issued by the Israeli navy, Al Jazeera reported, citing an Israeli army spokesman.
“After exhausting all diplomatic channels the Israeli government ordered the Israeli Navy to redirect the vessel in order to prevent breach of the naval blockade” of Gaza, the statement said, according to Reuters.
— Freedom Flotilla (@GazaFFlotilla) June 29, 2015
According to Petros Stergiou, a spokesperson for the flotilla, organizers lost contact with the main boat “Marianne of Gothenburg” at around 2:00 a.m. local time on Monday (10 p.m. EDT Sunday), as three Israeli military boats approached it.
“What we learned is that the Israeli navy attacked the Marianne around 100 nautical miles from the shore of Gaza,” Stergiou told Al Jazeera. “They said they could see three military boats approaching them that had identified themselves as being military… Once again, the Israeli government and its military has acted like state pirates and attacked our boat in international waters.”
The organizers of the flotilla earlier said that details of the other boats and their final departure points were being kept secret to avoid sabotage.
The seized vessel was part of Freedom Flotilla III, which reportedly set sail on Saturday, in protest of Israel's nine-year blockade of Gaza, which is controlled by Islamist group Hamas. The activists on board reportedly included Israeli Arab lawmaker Basel Ghattas and Tunisia's former president Moncef Marzouki.
Monday’s incident came five years after 10 Turkish activists were killed in a deadly raid by Israel of the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, which was part of the first Freedom Flotilla to Gaza.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated the country’s troops for taking over the ship, which, according to him, was involved in “a demonstration of hypocrisy” and support for Hamas.