Israel Threatens to Seize Jewish Aid Boat Bound for Gaza

The 'Irene' sailed from Famagusta in Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus on Sunday, carrying Jewish activists from Israel and abroad.

The Israel Navy is planning to take control Tuesday of a Gaza-bound aid boat organized by Jewish activists from Israel and abroad.

The military has been closely watching the vessel, named the Irene, since it left the port of Famagusta in Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus on Sunday.

jewish gaza boat - AP - Sept 26 2010

On the ship are 10 left-wing Jewish activists, five of whom carry Israeli passports, and a load of humanitarian aid. On Monday night, the boat was spotted about 70 miles off the Gaza coast, and the navy had expected it to try to dock in the territory Tuesday morning.

An Israel Defense Forces official confirmed Monday that the military intends to refuse to let the boat dock in Gaza, not only in a bid to maintain the naval blockade but out of concern for the safety of the Israeli citizens onboard once in the territory.

Military officials said the boat was carrying a negligible load of supplies, and describes the action as a "provocation" that disrupts the navy's operation.

An army source said that when the vessel reaches the area where the naval blockade begins, the military will offer to transfer its supplies to the port of Ashdod and order the crew to turn around. Should they refuse, the source said, the Shayetet 13 naval commando unit will seize control of the boat and transport it to Ashdod, where crew members will be detained for trying to violate the blockade.

Military officials said they do not expect to encounter physical resistance, and that after examining the supplies, they would transfer them to Gaza by land.