Report: Nine arrested in England by terror police en route to Gaza
Sky News: Men arrested in vans bearing Palestinian flag, sign saying 'From Blackburn (U.K.) to Gaza.'
Police in a counterterrorist operation arrested three men and seized three vehicles that tried to join a convoy organized by a British charity to carry aid to the Gaza Strip, authorities said Saturday.
Lancashire Constabulary said the men were arrested Friday evening while traveling on a major highway near Preston, 220 miles (360 kms) northwest of London.
The vehicles were seized in the same area, but police declined to say if the three men were traveling in them. Police also declined to say what the men - aged 26, 29, and 36 - were suspected of doing.
The police said the contents of the three vehicles and five houses in the nearby town of nearby Burnley were being searched as part of the operation.
They declined to disclose the contents of the vehicles.
According to Sky News, the vehicles included an old ambulance that bore an image of the Palestinian flag and signs saying "Stop Killing Children, Free Palestine" and "From Blackburn (U.K.) to Gaza."
Sky News reported that there were medical supplies and clothes on board, and that the men were apparently planning to drive to London and then on to the Gaza Strip.
The rest of the aid convoy to Gaza, organized by British charity Viva Palestina, set off from London on Saturday. More than 100 vehicles carrying food, medicine and toys will drive in the convoy to Gaza in a journey that is expected to take around two weeks.
The group's Web site said volunteers planned to drive 5,000 miles (8,000 km) through France, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt where they had hoped to cross the border at Rafah into Gaza on March 2.
A spokesman for Viva Palestina told Press Association, the British news agency, that the organization did not know the people involved in the arrests and that it had not been contacted by police.
Police Chief Superintendent Neil Smith said the police were trying to be sensitive to the local communities.
Another six men arrested as part of the same operation on Friday evening were released without charge.
Israel unilaterally ended a three-week offensive in Gaza, meant to halt years of rocket fire on southern Israeli communities, last month.