Israel threatens action against Gaza aid ship

Warning comes as aid convoy seeks to break blockade of Gaza Strip as part of "Freedom Flotilla" movement.

    The yacht sailed from Naples, Italy on October 6 as part of the "Freedom Flotilla" movement [AFP]
    The yacht sailed from Naples, Italy on October 6 as part of the "Freedom Flotilla" movement [AFP]

    Israel has warned to confront by force a Gaza-bound ship if it tries to break the blockade of the Palestinian territory, a Finnish foreign ministry spokesman has said.

    "The foreign ministry has been informed by Israel that it would intervene if the ship Estelle which is flying the Finnish flag tries to break [Israel's] blockade against Gaza from the sea," spokesman Risto Piipponen said on state television on Saturday.

    "We told Israel that the Estelle is a civilian vessel and that its crew is made up of civilians," he said. Israel had been asked to act appropriately, he added.

    The yacht, which was built in 1922, sailed from Naples, Italy on October 6 as part of the "Freedom Flotilla" movement, in the latest bid to break Israel's blockade.

    It carries 16 people, mainly from Western countries but also one Israeli national, as well as humanitarian aid. Depending on weather conditions, it is expected to reach Gaza in around two weeks.

    The voyage was organised by an international pro-Palestinian coalition.

    Canada's Gaza's Ark group which supports the mission said on its website the Finnish ministry had informed it of the Israeli warning.

    "...In case SV Estelle seeks to break the blockade at sea on Gaza (20 nautical miles), Israel will intervene in the situation by using force. Should this take place, the safety of the people on board may be jeopardised", Gaza's Ark quoted the Israeli message to the Finnish foreign ministry as saying.

    The first Freedom Flotilla in May 2010 ended in tragedy when nine Turkish nationals were killed after Israeli commandos boarded the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, the lead ship, as it tried to break through the blockade.

    A second attempt to break the blockade in mid-2011 with a coalition of ships setting sail from Athens failed after Greek authorities intercepted the boats, banning their departure and towing back into port those who tried to leave.

    In November last year, the Israeli navy also intercepted two Irish and Canadian ships carrying 27 passengers and crew that were trying to breach the blockade in international waters off Gaza.

    The Estelle set off originally from Sweden and arrived in the Gulf of Naples on October 4 after a tour of Europe, including Finland, France and Spain. Its exact location can be followed on the flotilla's Ship to Gaza website.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: Coding like a girl

    Interactive: Coding like a girl

    What obstacles do young women in technology have to overcome to achieve their dreams? Play this retro game to find out.

    Heron Gate mass eviction: 'We never expected this in Canada'

    Hundreds face mass eviction in Canada's capital

    About 150 homes in one of Ottawa's most diverse and affordable communities are expected to be torn down in coming months

    I remember the day … I designed the Nigerian flag

    I remember the day … I designed the Nigerian flag

    In 1959, a year before Nigeria's independence, a 23-year-old student helped colour the country's identity.