Aid flotilla's organizer urges Canadian government to protest Israeli seizure

Aid flotilla's organizer urges Canadian government to protest Israeli seizure

One of the organizers of Gaza-bound aid flotilla, Wendy Goldsmith protested against the interception of the ships by Israeli commandos and called on the Canadian government to lodge a formal complaint against "Israel's illegal pirating of a Canadian ship in international waters", dpa reported.

"This is simply outrageous and will only further isolate Israel from the international community," she told dpa.

An attempt by pro-Palestinian activists to break Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip failed Friday, with an Israeli naval commando boarding two ships heading for the enclave, after they refused demands to turn back or sail to an Israeli port.

The 27 activists on board the two ships - the Irish Saoirse and the Canadian Tahrir - offered no resistance and there were no casualties, an Israeli military spokeswoman said.

The ships were boarded as they crossed they blockade line, about 30 kilometres off the coast.

They were told to turn around, sail to Egypt, or to the Israeli port of Ashdod, where the goods they were carrying would be transferred to the Gaza Strip after being inspected, said military spokeswoman Lieutenant-Colonel Avital Leibovich, said.

According to a video released by the Israeli military, the Tahrir, when stopped and questioned, replied that it was heading for Gaza. It gave its port of origin as "Turkey" and, in reply to a question, said it carried no cargo on board.

Organizers of the voyage have said the 27 activists on board the two ships had been told not to resist any Israeli navy attempt to intercept them.

The two ships sailed from Turkey on Wednesday. The blockade-breaking attempt, called Freedom Waves to Gaza, had been kept a secret until the ships were underway, to avoid Israeli and international efforts to stop it.

An attempt in July to break the Gaza blockade - denounced by Israel as a provocation - was foiled when Greece prevented eight boats, calling themselves the Freedom Flotilla 2, from sailing from its ports.

Some of the activists in the latest attempt were the same as those who participated in July.

In March, Israel foiled an attempt to smuggle weapons into Gaza by intercepting the Victoria, a German-owned, Liberian-flagged ship sailing from Syria via Turkey to Egypt. The vessel, intercepted some 200 nautical miles west off the Israeli coast, had 3,000 rockets and shells hidden on board.

In May last year, Israeli naval commandos intercepted a nine-ship flotilla heading for the Gaza Strip.

Eight of the vessels were boarded peacefully, but violence broke out on the ninth ship, the Turkish Mavi Marmara, and eight Turkish pro-Palestinian activists and an American of Turkish descent were killed.

A UN report published in early September found that the commandos had used "excessive and unreasonable" force in taking over the ship, but also faced "organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers."

The report also declared the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip legal.

Israel imposed its blockade on the Strip in June 2006, when militants snatched an Israeli soldier during a cross-border raid. The siege was tightened a year later, when the militant Islamist group Hamas, which advocates violent resistance to Israel, seized full control of the enclave.

Following international criticism of the interception of the nine-ship flotilla in May 2010, Israel significantly relaxed its sanctions on the types of goods being allowed into the Strip.

But it still insists on checking shipments and has slapped an embargo on anything which can be used to manufacture weapons.

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