Israeli navy challenges Gaza-bound yacht

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 19, 2011 4:03 AM
Israeli navy challenges Gaza-bound yacht

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli naval vessels on Tuesday told a French yacht carrying pro-Palestinian activists intending to sail to Gaza, which is under an Israeli naval blockade, to leave the area, a military spokesman said.

"The naval vessels have hailed the yacht telling it that it is approaching a blockaded area," the spokesman said, declining to give more details.

The 17-passenger "Dignite-AlKarama" had declared an Egyptian port as its destination when it left Greek waters on Sunday but then said it was redirecting toward the Palestinian enclave and was hoping to arrive by Tuesday afternoon.

Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television reported that its correspondent on the yacht said a communication from an Israeli vessel told the yacht that marines would take control of the boat if it did not heed their instructions.

Israel, whose marines killed nine Turkish activists when they stormed a Gaza-bound flotilla in the Mediterranean last year, has vowed to stop any new attempt to breach a naval blockade it deems necessary to prevent arms from reaching Gaza, which is ruled by the Islamist group Hamas.

Palestinians and their supporters consider the Gaza blockade illegal and say it stunts the economic development of the territory, most of whose 1.5 million residents rely on aid to survive.

(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)