Gaza – A number of Palestinian officials and activists Saturday condemned Israel’s interception of a Gaza-bound Finnish boat and called for an urgent international intervention to end the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip which had lasted for more than five years.
Earlier Saturday, an Israeli army spokesperson said the Finnish-flagged Swedish ship “Estelle” was intercepted and seized when it was 30 miles away from Gaza shore, after the activists onboard the ship refused the Israeli instructions to stop sailing to the Gaza Strip, reported Xinhua.
The boat was taken to the Israeli seaport of Ashdod, according to Israeli media.
Noor Oudeh, spokeswoman of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) told Xinhua that the PNA strongly condemned the Israeli interception of the Finnish boat which carried European activists, who wanted to go to Gaza to express solidarity and help end the Israeli siege imposed on the Gaza Strip.
“The Palestinian Authority always supports any solidarity with Gaza and opposes the illegal Israeli siege,” said Oudeh.
The boat set sail from Sweden three months ago, having stopover in the ports of Norway, Spain, and Greece to pick up the activists and the aid to the Palestinians in Gaza.
Last week, Israel notified Finland that the boat will be stopped if it tried to enter Gaza’s waters.
Fawzi Barhoum, Islamic Hamas movement’s spokesman in Gaza, said in a statement that the Israeli attack on the Finnish boat and arresting the European activists “is clear piracy and a crime against humanity and against the Palestinian people”.
“Israel is mounting its assaults on the Palestinians amid a complete international silence after the occupants tightened siege on the Gaza Strip,” said Barhoum.
However, Israeli Radio quoted a high-ranking Israeli army source as saying that according to the UN resolutions, it is Israel’s right to intercept any ship that violates the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip.
The source said that the Gaza Strip doesn’t suffer from any humanitarian crisis, adding that Israel is allowing all kinds of food products and all the needs of people in Gaza through the legal crossing of Kerem Shalom on the borders between Gaza Strip and Israel.
In 2008, several international ferries succeeded in docking at Gaza’s fishing harbour, a year after Israel imposed a strict ground and naval blockade in Gaza to isolate Hamas.
But following its major military offensive in 2008-2009 winter, Israel decided to ban all foreign ships from entering Gaza’s waters.
In 2010, Israeli commandos intercepted a Turkish flotilla bound for Gaza and killed nine pro-Palestinian Turks, straining the relations between Israel and Turkey. Following the standoff, Israel alleviated the overland closure, but kept the naval blockade tight.
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