Skip to main content

Israelis intercept aid boat to Gaza

By the CNN Wire Staff
The Irene was intercepted on Tuesday by the Israeli navy as it tried to sail to Gaza. The boat set off from Cyprus on Sunday.
The Irene was intercepted on Tuesday by the Israeli navy as it tried to sail to Gaza. The boat set off from Cyprus on Sunday.
  • NEW: An Israeli lawyer is denied access to the foreigners taken off the ship, she says
  • The aid boat's organizers say its seizure shows Israel is not serious about peace
  • The Israeli navy boarded the boat without injuries and took it to Ashdod
  • The boat was heading to Gaza despite an Israeli blockade

Jerusalem (CNN) -- The Israeli navy took over an aid vessel that attempted to sail to Gaza on Tuesday despite a blockade to the occupied territory, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces said.

No one was injured when the navy took over and boarded the boat, named the Irene, which the navy was taking to a port in Ashdod, the IDF spokesman said.

Israeli authorities questioned the five Israelis aboard at a police station in Ashdod, said Smadar Ben Natan, their lawyer.

But she is being denied access to the foreigners, she told CNN, and said she is concerned.

Video: Gaza flotilla: A tale of two inquires
  • Cyprus
  • Israel
  • Gaza

Previous passengers of ships trying to break the Gaza blockade have been allowed to see lawyers, she said.

One of the organizers of the boat condemned the Israeli action, saying it showed Israel has "no real intentions of reaching peace."

The boat and its fate are a symbol of the chances for peace in the region, Richard Kuper of Jews for Justice for Palestinians said in a statement.

The IDF said the yacht was boarded "without incident and no violence of any kind was used by either the passengers on board or the Israel naval forces.

"Prior to boarding the yacht, the Israeli naval ships transmitted two warnings to its captain, making him aware that they are breaking both Israeli and international law. These warnings were ignored by the captain of the yacht and its passengers, who sailed further into the area under naval blockade," the IDF said.

The boat, named the Irene, set sail Sunday from Cyprus with 10 passengers and crew, including Jews from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Israel.

Physicians for Human Rights have asked to see the passengers, the organizers said.

Organizers said the boat would attempt to reach the Gaza coast and unload its cargo of donated items as an act of both "solidarity and protest," calling for the Israeli blockade of Gaza to be lifted.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry had promised Monday it would tell the boat to dock instead at Al Arish port in northeastern Egypt near Gaza or at Israeli ports in Ashdod. If the boat refused, it would be intercepted and towed to Ashdod, said ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.

The boat's cargo includes children's toys, musical instruments, textbooks, fishing nets, and prosthetic limbs, the organizers said. They planned to deliver the goods to the Gaza Mental Health Program.

"Israeli government policies are not supported by all Jews," said Kuper of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, one of the organizers. "We call on all governments and people around the world to speak and act against the occupation and the siege."

Police in Cyprus were not aware of the boat's departure, spokesman Michalis Katsounotos said.

Cyprus has a ban on vessels leaving the southern part of the island for Gaza. It was unclear from what part of the island the boat departed.

In May, Israeli forces intercepted an aid flotilla headed to Gaza from Turkey. Violence broke out, resulting in the deaths of nine people.

Wednesday, the United Nations Human Rights Council concluded the Israeli forces committed serious violations of international law in the mid-sea interception.

The 56-page report described the circumstances of the deaths of "at least six of the passengers" as being "consistent with ... an arbitrary and summary execution."

Israel has maintained its troops used force on the activists in May after they were attacked by those on board one boat, but passengers on board that boat insist Israeli troops fired on them without provocation.

CNN's Paula Hancocks and Michal Zippori in Jerusalem, and Christabelle Fombu in Atlanta, Georgia, contributed to this report.