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30 Jun, 2015

Israeli Navy Seizes Gaza-Bound Freedom Flotilla III

GAZA, June 29, 2015 (WAFA) – The Israeli Navy on Monday boarded and seized a boat leading a four-vessel flotilla of international activists bound for Gaza, to prevent them from reaching the blockaded coastal enclave, according to media sources.

Petros Stergiou, a spokesperson for the flotilla, said that organizers lost contact with the Marianne at around 2am local time on Monday morning, as three military boats approached the boat.

“What we learned is that the Israeli navy attacked the Marianne around 100 nautical miles from the shore of Gaza… They said they could see three military boats approaching them that had identified themselves as being military,” Stergiou said.

“Once again, the Israeli government and its military acted like state pirates and attacked our boat in international waters.”

The Israeli military said in statement there was no violence in the incident, in which the naval troop boarded, searched and then forced the boat to sail to the Israeli Ashdod seaport.

The four-vessel flotilla was part of the Freedom Flotilla III carrying international pro-Palestinian activists, including Arab Israeli lawmaker Basel Ghattas, Tunisia’s former president Moncef Marzouki and a European lawmaker.

The first Flotilla was due to arrive in Gaza on May 31, 2010, but was attacked by Israeli commandos who violently boarded the flotilla from speedboats and helicopters and killed nine activists, all of whom were Turkish.

Israeli soldiers and officials who took part in the attack are being tried in absentia in Turkey for war crimes.

Nabil Shaath, member of Fatah central council, described the Israeli attack Sunday night as a form of piracy, and called upon the international community to alleviate the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

He said that despite the cruise was intercepted, its message – that 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza are living in a prolonged siege – has arrived.

The Gaza Strip has been under a tight Israeli naval, land, and aerial blockade for nine years, since Hamas faction won the 2006 parliamentary elections.

Israel, taking firm control over three major checkpoints with Gaza’s borders, continues to prohibit the entry of hundreds of basic materials, including food items, construction material, medical supplies, and pharmaceuticals.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement congratulating troops for seizing the boat, he said was involved in ‘a demonstration of hypocrisy’ and support for Hamas, and said Israel’s actions were in accordance with international law.