Gaza-bound flotilla intercepted by Israeli navy

Gaza-bound flotilla intercepted by Israeli navy
An aid convoy attempting to break the decade-long Israeli blockade of Gaza was surrounded by Israeli navy ships as it approached the shores of the besieged Palestinian enclave.
2 min read
05 October, 2016
The Women's Boat to Gaza aimed to break the decade-long blockade [Getty]

An all-women aid flotilla approaching blockaded Gaza has been intercepted by Israeli navy forces.

Members of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition "lost contact" with the all-woman crew who were hoping to breach the decade-long siege of the Palestinian enclave.

A message posted on Twitter by the activists said: "At 1558 (CEST) we lost contact again with #WomenToGaza & presume that the IOF has now begun attack, reports that she had been surrounded."

The Israeli military said in a statement the vessel had been intercepted in international waters and is being escorted to shore.

The boat, named Zaytouna-Oliva, left Barcelona three weeks ago, carrying 15 activists and supplies to the beseiged territory, which is under Hamas control.

Israel says its maritime, land and sea blockade of Gaza is necessary to prevent Hamas receiving supplies which could be used for military purposes.

Israel's naval blockade extends to six nautical miles and Palestinian fishing boats have previously been fired at for sailing beyond the cordon.

The aid vessel was due to reach Gaza on Wednesday.

In the morning, the organisation announced it was within 100 nautical miles of the shore.

At 2pm CEST (1pm GMT), it tweeted that it was at 52 nautical miles.

Contact was lost almost two hours later later.

In a statement, the Israeli military said naval forces stopped the boat in international waters and urged it to change course.

When it refused, the navy says it searched the vessel. The search was "uneventful", the statement added.

A similar operation turned to tragedy in 2010 when Israeli commandos killed 10 Turkish activists in a raid on a flotilla.