Israel detains activists attempting to break Gaza blockade

Israel detains activists attempting to break Gaza blockade
The 13 women activists on board a vessel attempting to break the Gaza siege are being held by Israeli forces.
2 min read
06 October, 2016
Gazans await the flotilla which aimed to break the decade-long blockade [Getty]
Activists who tried to break the blockade on Gaza by sailing to the shore of the besieged strip have been detained by Israeli forces.

The pro-Palestinian flotilla was intercepted by the Israeli navy on Wednesday, who escorted the vessel to the port of Ashdod.

The Israeli military said the women on board - who included a Nobel peace laureate - "were transferred to the appropriate authorities for further processing".

Sabine Haddad - spokeswoman for Israel's interior ministry - said 11 of the passengers were being detained for 96 hours and would then be deported.

The all-woman mission - dubbed Women's Boat to Gaza - is part of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition which sends boats to the Palestinian enclave in protest of Israel's decade-long siege.

The boat, Zaytouna-Oliva, which left Barcelona three weeks ago, sailed within 35 nautical miles of Gaza's coast when it was intercepted.

The 13 passengers on board were given the option to leave Israel, Haddad said. However 11 of them refused and were detained.

Two other women, both journalists, were deported immediately and left Israel on Thursday morning.

The all-women crew on the Dutch-flagged boat included Mairead Maguire, an Irish Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

The Palestinian Authority condemned the Israeli takeover of the Zaytouna, saying that Israel's actions against peaceful foreign activists revealed its "occupational mentality", reported Maan news agency. 

The boat's arrival coincided with a flare-up of violence along the Gaza border. Gaza militants launched a rocket that hit the Israeli city of Sderot, while Israel responded with airstrikes targeting Hamas military posts.

In 2010, Israel raided a Turkish-led flotilla bound for Gaza, killing 10 Turks in an incident that sparked a years-long rift with Turkey that is only now being mended.

Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza in 2006, which it tightened in 2007 when Hamas seized power. It says the restrictions are needed to prevent Hamas from importing weapons.

However the blockade has stifled Gaza's already weak economy, where unemployment is above 40 percent, and restricts the movement of 1.9 million Palestinians.