Israel deports passengers of seized Lebanese aid ship

Israel Materials 6 February 2009 14:02 (UTC +04:00)

All the 18 passengers and crew on a Lebanese aid ship seized by Israeli navy were expelled on Friday to different destinations, the Doha-based al-Jazeera TV satellite reported.

Ten of the 18 people aboard the vessel arrived in southern Lebanese town of Nakoura at 3:00 a.m. local time (0100 GMT) on Friday after being released by the Israeli authorities, the report said, Xinhua reported.

The passengers and crew of Lebanese freighter "Taly" were seized by the Israeli navy on Thursday as it was approaching Palestinian territorial water to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza in defiance of an Israeli blockade on the coastal strip.

"They opened fire on the ship, while Israeli soldiers climbed on board. They kicked us and beat us," said Salam Khodr, a female reporter working for Al-Jazeera, who was on board of the ship.

She said Urarith Dandash, a female reporter for the Lebanese New TV station, was beaten up as well.

"The Israeli navy intercepted the ship and detained its passengers in Egyptian territorial water," Khodr said, adding that passengers were blindfolded, handcuffed and interrogated, "but we did not answer any of their questions."

The Israeli authorities said the vessel was intercepted as it tried to enter Gaza's territorial water, and was dragged to Israeli port of Ashdod.

The day-long ordeal of the Lebanese ship ended at dawn on Friday after Israel handed over the crew and passengers to the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

The ship, which took off from northern Lebanese port of Tripoli on Monday, stopped in Cyprus, where authorities inspected the cargo before allowing it to continue the trip.

The ship was trying to deliver 60 tons of medicine, food, toys and books to the besieged Gaza Strip which is suffering a humanitarian crisis after Israel's three-week bombardment that left over 1,400 dead and thousands wounded.