A ship carrying pro-Palestinian activists seeking to breach
Israel's naval blockade on Gaza has "come under attack"
shortly after being approached by Israeli vessels, a spokeswoman
"The Estelle is now under attack - I have just had a message from
them by phone," Victoria Strand, a Stockholm-based spokeswoman for
the Ship to Gaza Sweden campaign told the AFP news agency on
The Israeli action has invited
strong reaction from Palestinians. A number of
Palestinian officials and activists while condemning Israel's
interception of a Gaza-bound Finnish boat, called for an urgent
international intervention to end the Israeli blockade on the Gaza
Strip which had lasted for more than five years.
According to Dror Feiler, another
spokesperson, the Estelle, whose passengers include five
parliamentarians from Europe and a former Canadian politician, was
attacked at around 08:15 GMT.
"Five or six military vessels surrounded the Estelle. Soldiers
wearing masks are now trying to board the ship. The attack took
place on international water: N31 26 E33 45," Feiler said.
The Israeli military confirmed that the ship was boarded, after
first denying that they had attacked or boarded it.
"A short while ago, Israeli navy soldiers boarded Estelle, a
vessel which was en route to the Gaza Strip, attempting to break
the maritime security blockade," it said in a statement.
The boat was then set sail from Naples, Italy, on Oct 7. It carries more
than a dozen activists, most of them from Western countries, and
It was scheduled to arrive in Gaza in two weeks, depending on
But the Israel foreign ministry Saturday notified Finland that the
boat will be stopped if it tried to enter Gaza's waters.
Noor Oudeh, spokeswoman of the
Palestinian National Authority (PNA) told Xinhua that the PNA
strongly condemned the Israeli interception of the Finnish boat
which carried European activists, who wanted to go to Gaza to
express solidarity and help end the Israeli siege imposed on the
"The Palestinian Authority always supports any solidarity with
Gaza and opposes the illegal Israeli siege," said Oudeh.
The boat set sail from Sweden three months ago, having stopover in
the ports of Norway, Spain, and Greece to pick up the activists
and the aid to the Palestinians in Gaza.
Last week, Israel notified Finland that the boat will be stopped
if it tried to enter Gaza's waters.
Fawzi Barhoum, Islamic Hamas movement's spokesman in Gaza, said in
a statement that the Israeli attack on the Finnish boat and
arresting the European activists "is clear piracy and a crime
against humanity and against the Palestinian people".
"Israel is mounting its assaults on the Palestinians amid a
complete international silence after the occupants tightened siege
on the Gaza Strip," said Barhoum.
However, Israeli Radio quoted a high-ranking Israeli army source
as saying that according to the UN resolutions, it is Israel's
right to intercept any ship that violates the blockade imposed on
the Gaza Strip.
The source said that the Gaza Strip doesn't suffer from any
humanitarian crisis, adding that Israel is allowing all kinds of
food products and all the needs of people in Gaza through the
legal crossing of Kerem Shalom on the borders between Gaza Strip
Yousef Rizka, a Hamas official, warned that Israel may use
"violence and terror to prevent the humanitarian aid from reaching
Gaza". He said the international community must "stop the Israeli
In 2008, several international ferries succeeded in docking at
Gaza's fishing harbour, a year after Israel imposed a strict
ground and naval blockade on Gaza to isolate Hamas.
However, following the three-week Operation Cast Lead between 2008
and 2009, Israel decided to ban all foreign ships from entering
In 2010, Israeli commandos intercepted a Turkish flotilla bound
for Gaza and killed nine Pro-Palestinian Turks, tensing diplomatic
relations between Israel and Turkey. Following the standoff,
Israel relaxed the overland closure, but kept the naval blockade