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Tuesday Sept. 28, 2010 12:23 PM (EST+7)
Israel stops Jewish activists' yacht on way to Gaza

Read more: Irene, activists, activism, aid ship, flotilla, Gaza blockade, Gaza seige, Israeli navy

JERUSALEM, Sept 28 (Reuters) - The Israeli navy boarded a yacht in the Mediterranean on Tuesday to prevent a small group of Jewish activists sailing to Gaza.

A military statement said the British flagged catamaran Irene was taken over without incident off Gaza, within the 20-mile nautical zone that Israel defines as Gaza waters. It was taken to the port of Ashdod.

The group of nine activists -- from Israel, Britain, Germany and the United States -- set sail from Cyprus on Sunday, intent on defying the Israeli blockade of Gaza and highlighting the suffering of Palestinians who live in the territory.

Israel dismissed it as a provocative stunt.

Israel's Gaza policies came under scrutiny in May after its marines killed nine Turkish activists in boarding one ship in a flotilla of six vessesl trying to reach the Palestinian enclave.

International condemnation of the action persuaded the government to relax restrictions on what Gaza can import. But Israel maintains the naval blockade in what it says is an effort to stop arms being smuggled to the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007.

The Irene was carrying what the activists called a symbolic load of medicine, a water purifying kit and toys.

Israeli peace activist Rami Elhanan told Israel radio shortly before the yacht was boarded that they had no intention of resisting.

Certainly not. We are not violent people and it never occurred to us to use any form of force, said Elhanan, who lost his 14-year-old daughter Smadar to a Palestinian suicide bomber in 1997.






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