Boat Bound for Gaza Intercepted and Escorted to Israeli Port

A boat that was carrying 13 female pro-Palestinian activists was given an escort to shore at a port in Israel Thursday after it was intercepted by the Israeli navy when attempting to break the blockade Israel has on the Gaza Strip, said the military.

The Israeli military added that the women, who were on board, including a Nobel peace laureate, had been transferred to authorities for processing.

Israel Interior Ministry spokesperson Sabine Haddad said 11 of the 13 passengers had been detained for four days and then would all be deported.

Haddad added that the women had been given an option of leaving Israel prior to that period, but they all had refused. The other two, who are both journalists, were immediately deported and on Thursday morning, left Israel.

The detained boat docked at Ashdod. It was sponsored by a coalition of groups that are pro-Palestinian and based in Europe, known as the International Freedom Flotilla Coalition.

That coalition is responsible for sending a number of aid boats as a way of drawing attention to the blockade Israel has of Gaza, but have not successfully reached Gaza since 2008.

The boat, which is Dutch-flagged, had 13 activists, all female, aboard who were from different countries. That group included Irish Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire.

The organizers said that the navy had intercepted the boat just 40 miles from the coast of Gaza Wednesday and took control of the vessel without resistance.

Israel in 2010 raided a flotilla that was Turkish led and bound for Gaza. The raid killed 10 Turkish nationals and sparked a rift of a number of years between Israel and Turkey that only now has started to mend.

The arrival of this boat coincided with an increase of violence along the border of Gaza. Militants in Gaza launched a rocket, which struck Sderot an Israeli city. Israel responded to that rocket strike with its own airstrikes that targeted infrastructure that belonged to Hamas the militant group that rules Gaza.

Israel as well as Egypt imposed a Gaza blockade after the militant group took power of Gaza in 2007. This blockage has resulted in stifling the already weak Gaza economy, where the rate of unemployment exceeds 40% and has prevented thousands of people from making trips abroad to find work, study or for other personal reasons.

The restrictions, says Israel are necessary in order to stop Hamas from importing more weapons.



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