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Israelis Board Boat Of Jewish Activists Bound For Gaza


The British-flagged "Irene"

The British-flagged "Irene"

The Israeli navy has boarded a yacht in the Mediterranean to prevent a small group of Jewish activists sailing to Gaza.

A military statement said the British-flagged catamaran "Irene" was taken over without incident off Gaza, within the 20-mile nautical zone that Israel defines as Gaza waters. It was taken to the port of Ashdod.

The group of nine activists -- from Israel, Britain, Germany, and the United States -- set sail from Cyprus on September 26, intent on defying the Israeli blockade of Gaza and highlighting the suffering of Palestinians who live in the territory.

Israel dismissed it as a "provocative" stunt.

Israel's Gaza policies came under scrutiny in May after its marines killed nine Turkish activists in boarding one ship in a flotilla of six vessels trying to reach the Palestinian enclave.

International condemnation of the action persuaded the government to relax restrictions on what Gaza can import. But Israel maintains the naval blockade in what it says is an effort to stop arms being smuggled to the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007.
The Irene was carrying what the activists called a symbolic load of medicine, a water purifying kit and toys.

Israeli peace activist Rami Elhanan told Israel radio shortly before the yacht was boarded that they had no intention of resisting.

"Certainly not. We are not violent people and it never occurred to us to use any form of force," said Elhanan, who lost his 14-year-old daughter Smadar to a Palestinian suicide bomber in 1997.

-- Reuters
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