Israel Seizes Gaza-Bound Activist Boat
The Israeli navy seized a Swedish-flagged sailboat about 40 nautical miles off the coast of the Palestinian Gaza Strip on Saturday.
The 12 people on board the SY Freedom to Gaza will be put on flights home. The boat was carrying of medical supplies and two journalists, says the organizers Ships to Gaza.
“The demands of Ship to Gaza are that the ship with its crew and cargo will be returned to the site of the boarding, and that they will be allowed to go in peace through international and Palestinian waters in accordance to international law,” said the group in a statement. “In effect, this is a demand that the 11 years-long illegal and destructive blockade on Gaza will be lifted at last. The government of Sweden has repeatedly stood behind demands on a lifting of the blockade. We now expect that the same government, in the capacity of flag nation of the attacked vessel, will also support our specific demands regarding the ship, crew and cargo.”
Israel's naval blockade of Gaza is intended to prevent weapons from reaching militant groups, including the Islamist movement Hamas, which it and the U.S classify as a terrorist organization.
The Israel Defence Forces issued a statement saying the vessel's passengers are violating the legal naval blockade and that any humanitarian merchandise can be transferred to Gaza through the Israeli Port of Ashdod.
The Freedom to Gaza was part of a flotilla that included three other boats: Al Awda, Falestine and Mairead. Over the last couple of months, the Freedom Flotilla has stopped in ports in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Portugal and Italy.
Ship to Gaza has stated: “We do not accept any anti-jewish positions in our struggle to lift the Israeli siege on Gaza. We reject all anti-semitism and other forms of racism. It is only through uniting regardless of nationality or religious identity we will be able to reach our goal: an end to the illegal blockade on Gaza.”
Since 2008, international activists have sailed over 30 boats to challenge the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza. In 2010, Israeli commandos raided a Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, that was leading a flotilla to Gaza. 10 activists on board were killed.