JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israel Defense Forces reportedly intercepted a boat attempting to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza.
The Women’s Boat to Gaza, with 13 female passengers, was intercepted Wednesday afternoon less than 50 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza, according to reports based on social media. Organizers had lost contact with the boat during the interception, according to reports. The boat was redirected to the Ashdod port in southern Israel.
“The visit and search of the vessel was uneventful,” the IDF said in a statement. “In accordance with international law, the Israeli Navy advised the vessel numerous times to change course prior to the action. Following their refusal the Navy visited and searched the vessel in international waters in order to prevent their intended breach of the lawful maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip.”
Pre-recorded SOS messages calling on the public to ask their governments to intervene were released after the interception.
The Women’s Boat to Gaza is part of the International Freedom Flotilla Coalition. The boat, the Zaytouna-Olivia sailing under a Dutch flag, and a second boat had left from Barcelona for Gaza last month. The second boat had returned to Barcelona with technical trouble that some blamed on sabotage.
Gazans had gathered on the beach with signs and balloons to greet the boat.
In May 2010, Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish citizens in clashes on the Mavi Marmara boat that was part of a flotilla attempting to break the Gaza blockade. Several flotillas and individual boats attempting to break the blockade since then have been nonviolently redirected to Ashdod, where their cargoes were taken overland by truck to Gaza.