Israel Navy intercepts Gaza-bound French vessel

Israel Navy intercepts Gaza-bound French vessel
# 19 July 2011 18:00 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. Israel Navy soldiers on Tuesday intercepted a French yacht, the Dignite/Al Karama, which was sailing toward Gaza with the aim of breaching Israel’s maritime blockade on the Palestinian enclave, APA reports quoting Xinhua.

The navy boarded the yacht after it disregarded calls to divert its course and the troops did not encounter resistance from the passengers as they took over the vessel, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman said.

Some 10 pro-Palestinian activists and six crew members had expected to reach the Gaza shore on Tuesday to protest the maritime blockade that Israel has imposed on the enclave since Hamas took control in 2007.

The Dignite/Al Karama was the sole remaining vessel of a 20- ship anti-blockade flotilla that disbanded in recent weeks due to bureaucratic and technical delays. Israeli diplomats previously predicted that no violence would ensue if the navy was forced to board the craft.

Navy commandos boarded the vessel shortly after IDF chief Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz issued the order Tuesday noon, and then towed it to Israel’s southern port of Ashdod.

A Navy ship had shadowed the yacht when it was still some 50 miles away from the Gaza coast.

A naval officer initially radioed the boat’s crew prior to boarding, announcing that they were heading toward a blockaded area, and suggested transferring their Gaza-bound cargo via land crossings or the Ashdod port, the IDF said in a statement.

The navy sent three ships to surround the French vessel, when it did not heed calls to change course and continued sailing toward Gaza.