Israel Navy Stops Activist Boat Attempting to Break Gaza Blockade

The boat was carrying 22 people from 16 different countries in protest against Israel's decade-long blockade

File photo, activist boat headed towards Gaza to protest blockade, July 2, 2011.
REUTERS/Marko Djurica

Israel Navy stopped on Sunday a boat sailing from Europe to Gaza in an attempt to break the naval blockade on the Strip, the military said in a statement.

"The boat was tracked and captured in accordance with international law," the military said. The army said that the boat was breaking the blockade and that all humanitarian supplies could be transferred to Gaza via the Ashdod port. After it was caught, the ship was taken to the port of Ashdod.

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According to organizers, the Al-Awda boat was carrying 22 people from 16 different countries and flying under a Norwegian flag. The one-time fishing boat was carrying medication for people in Gaza.

Human rights groups have continually warned that living conditions for the coastal enclave's 2 million residents are unacceptable

Israel has blockaded Gaza for more than 10 years, with Egypt's aid. The measures are necessary for national security reasons, argues Israel, as Gaza is ruled by the Islamist militant Hamas organization.

Activists have long tried to break the blockade by sea. In an attempt in 2010, Israeli soldiers stormed the Turkish boat Mavi Marmara, resulting in the deaths of 10 Turkish citizens and damaging ties.