Israel intercepts Gaza-bound boat ′violating blockade′ | News | DW | 04.08.2018
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Israel intercepts Gaza-bound boat 'violating blockade'

The activist boat was en route to Gaza to deliver humanitarian goods, according to flotilla organizers. But the Israeli military said it had attempted to breach a naval blockade aimed at stopping arms smuggling.

The Israeli military on Saturday said its forces have intercepted a Swedish-flagged activist boat attempting to breach its naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The ship, named Freedom, said it was attempting to deliver humanitarian goods, including medical supplies.

"The ship was monitored and was intercepted in accordance with international law," the military said in a statement.

"The [military] clarified to the ship's passengers that they are violating the legal naval blockade and that any humanitarian merchandise can be transferred to Gaza through the Port of Ashdod."

Earlier this week, the Israeli navy intercepted a Norwegian-flagged activist boat. The boat, called al-Awda, formed part of a flotilla that left from Scandinavia in mid-May and included the boat Freedom.

Al Awda boat at port of Palermo

Israeli forces intercepted the activist boat al-Awda earlier this week

'Blockade of Gaza'

Prior to the military's statement, organizers of the flotilla said they had lost contact with the ship Freedom overnight, and believed Israeli forces had "begun to attack it."

"We demand that Israel ends its ongoing breaches of international law, including the collective punishment of a 12-year blockade of Gaza," organizers said in a statement.

Read more: Amid Israel-Hamas violence, Gazans fearful of full-scale war

The ship was carrying 12 people, including two journalists for Iranian state broadcaster Press TV, according to the organizers.

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History of encounters

In 2010, Israeli naval commandos raided an aid ship bound for Gaza, killing 10 Turkish activists on board the Mavi Marmara.

The incident prompted Turkey to recall its ambassador from Israel and downgrade military cooperation. In 2016, Turkey and Israel reconciled relations, with the Israeli government paying $20 million (€17.3 million) in compensation.

Israel maintains a blockade of the Gaza Strip as a security measure to prevent what it says are attempts by Iran and other actors to arm militant groups on the ground. Israel has fought three wars with the governing Islamist movement Hamas since 2008.

ls/jlw (AFP, AP, dpa)

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