Israel warns it will stop ship from entering Gaza waters

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel has warned Finland that it will stop a ship sailing under the Finnish flag carrying human rights activists attempting to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza.

The Swedish-owned Estelle, carrying 17 activists from countries including Canada, Norway, Sweden, Israel and the United States, is near Crete and expected to reach Gaza in about a week.

"Israel said that it would take action to stop the ship from reaching land if it tries to break the blockade," Finnish Foreign Ministry spokesman Risto Piipponen said Saturday, according to the French news agency AFP. "We pointed out that it is a civilian vessel and urged them to practice restraint in any action they take."

Part of the Freedom Flotilla movement, the Estelle reportedly is carrying humanitarian aid such as cement, basketballs and musical instruments. The small vessel began its journey in Sweden and toured Europe, including Finland, France and Spain, before arriving earlier this month in the Gulf of Naples. 

The Freedom Flotilla’s first attempt to break the blockade ended in the deaths of nine Turkish activists after Israeli Navy commandos on May 31, 2010 boarded the Mavi Marmara, which claimed to be carrying humanitarian aid, after warning the ship not to sail into waters near the Gaza Strip in circumvention of Israel’s naval blockade of the coastal strip.
 

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