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Palestinian Territories

Israel seizes pro-Palestinian ship off Gaza

Israeli marines have seized a Finnish-flagged schooner as it tried to enter Gaza coastal waters. The Estelle was carrying 20 pro-Palestinian activists, including European parliamentarians, and humanitarian aid.

The Estelle's crew sent a message that "Israeli navy soldiers" had boarded the three-mast ship when it approached to within 35 nautical miles (64 kilometers, 43 miles) of Gaza.

Israel's military said there was "no violence" during the boarding and the vessel was escorted to the southern Israeli port of Ashdod.

In May 2010 an Israel interception of a nine-ship flotilla ended in the killing of eight pro-Palestinian Turkish activists and an American of Turkish descent when Israeli commandoes boarded the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara. A United Nations inquiry later faulted Israel for using "excessive" force.

In November last year, the Israeli navy intercepted two Irish and Canadian ships carrying protestors who were trying to breach the blockade.

Blockade to hinder arms

Israeli imposed the naval blockade on Gaza in 2006, saying it was necessary to prevent weapons reaching militants in the small territory which is run by the Islamist movement Hamas.

Palestinians have described the blockade as collective punishment for Gaza's 1.6 million residents.

Activists on previous Gaza-bound flotillas who were detained by Israel's navy were later deported.

The Estelle had set sail from Sweden several weeks ago, stopping off in Finland, France and Spain before leaving the Italian port of Naples on October 6.

ipj/jlw (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

DW.DE