Israel Intercepts Gaza Aid Boat


israel-navyThe Israeli navy intercepted activists sailing to Gaza with aid early Tuesday morning Israel time, surrounding their boat and telling them to turn back, activists said. The vessel with 21 people on board was in international waters when it was told to turn back, members of the U.S.-based Free Gaza Movement on the boat and in Cyprus told Reuters. The Israeli military declined to comment. “There is a patrol boat around us and we were told that if we did not turn back they would open fire,” said Derek Graham, an Irish activist.”We are continuing our course to Gaza,” he said.

He was speaking via satellite telephone from a small ferry boat which had departed from Cyprus on Monday. Among the activists were an Irish Nobel peace laureate and a former U.S. Congresswoman.

In Cyprus, the group also said it had communication from the boat that unless it turned back it would be fired upon.

Israel tightened a blockade on Gaza in 2007 after the Islamist group Hamas took control of the enclave, a tiny sliver of territory which is home to some 1.5 million people.

The Israeli navy patrols Gaza coastal waters. It had intercepted activists of the same group sailing into Gaza on two previous occasions.

{Yair Israel/Reuters}