IDF seizes control of boat bound for Gaza
By Barak Ravid and Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondents, and Reutershttp://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1096729.html
The Israel Navy intercepted a boat carrying international activists attempting to break a blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Tuesday and forced it to sail to the southern port city of Ashdon, the army said.
Earlier Tuesday, the navy surrounded the vessel, which was also carrying humanitarian aid, and told the activists to turn back because of security risks in the area and the blockade, according to the army.
But the boat later entered Gaza's coastal waters, the Israel Defense Forces Spokespersons' Office said in a statement, after which a naval force boarded it.
No shots were fired during the boarding of the boat, and the crew was to be handed over to the appropriate authorities, the army said.
In the statement, the IDF Spokespersons' Unit added that it "would like to emphasize that any organization or country that wishes to transfer humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, can legally do so via the established crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip with prior coordination."
The army said humanitarian goods found on board the boat will be transferred to the Gaza Strip, subject to authorization.
An earlier statement by the voyage's organizers, the Free Gaza Movement, said the vessel, renamed the Spirit of Humanity, left the Cypriot port of Larnaca on Monday bound for Gaza with three tons of medical supplies.
The 20 passengers include former U.S. Representative Cynthia McKinney, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire and other activists from Britain, Ireland, Bahrain and Jamaica.
The Free Gaza Movement has organized five boat trips to Gaza since August
2008, defying a blockade imposed by Israel when the militant group Hamas
seized control of the territory from its Palestinian rivals in June 2007.
Two other attempts were stopped by Israeli warships during Israel's three-week offensive against Hamas in the territory in December and January. Nobody on board was harmed.
Israel tightened a blockade on Gaza in 2007 after Hamas seized control of the territory, home to some 1.5 million people.