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Friday, November 4, 2011

Israeli military boards Gaza-bound aid ships

Israeli sailors boarded two aid ships headed to the Palestinian territory of Gaza, the military said Friday, and no resistance was reported.

The Israel Defense Forces earlier said that the activists on board the "Freedom Waves" mini-flotilla were "attempting to break the maritime security blockade that is in place in accordance with international law" and were refusing to heed their calls to turn back.

"The boarding was carried out in line with directives from the Israeli government and after all attempts to prevent the vessels from reaching the Gaza Strip were made, but to no avail," the IDF said.

"The boarding was carried out following numerous calls to the activists on board and during different points at sea. Following their unwillingness to cooperate, and after ignoring calls to divert to the port of Ashdod, the decision was made to board the vessels and lead them there."

The IDF said the sailors "took every precaution necessary to ensure the safety of the activists on board the vessels as well as themselves."

"Upon arrival of the vessels at the Ashdod port, the activists will be transferred to the custody of the Israel Police and immigration authorities in the Ministry of Interior."

According to the activist organizers, this mission was the eleventh attempt to run Israel's blockade of Gaza by sea. Five missions arrived safely in Gaza between August and December 2008, with the rest intercepted by Israel.

The activists issued a statement on Friday saying that "ground support crews lost contact with two ships, the Saoirse of Ireland and the Tahrir of Canada." It said there are 27 civilian passengers. The boats are carrying medical supplies and letters of support for the Gazans. more