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Israeli Navy Boards Gaza-Bound Boat
The Israeli military says its navy boarded a boat carrying 30 pro-Palestinian activists that was trying to break the naval blockade on Gaza.
The boarding happened after the passengers' "unwillingness to co-operate" and they "ignored calls to change course", the military added.
Soldiers went on to the Finnish-flagged Estelle in the Mediterranean Sea, about 30 miles from Gaza, and it was being led to the southern Israeli port of Ashdod.
The military said the troops boarded the boat peacefully, and there was no harm to the passengers who were offered food and drinks.
When the boat arrives at the Ashdod port, the passengers will be transferred to the custody of the police and immigration authorities.
Victoria Strand, a spokeswoman for Ship to Gaza in Sweden, which sent the Estelle, said armed, masked soldiers boarded the boat and cut their communications 30 miles from Gaza.
She said activists on board told her six naval boats surrounded their vessel. "This is a demonstration of ruthlessness," Ms Strand said.
The Estelle is the latest in a series of activist-manned boats challenging Israel's blockade on Gaza, which was imposed after the militant group Hamas seized power of the territory in 2007.
The boat left Naples, Italy, on October 7 with passengers from eight countries, carrying items like cement, basketballs and musical instruments.
An Israeli military statement said: "The boarding was carried out in accordance with international law, with directives of the Israeli government and after all attempts to prevent the vessel from reaching the Gaza Strip were made, both via direct contact and through diplomatic channels, but to no avail.
"The boarding was carried out only after numerous calls to the passengers onboard; as a result of their unwillingness to co-operate and after ignoring calls to change course, the decision was made to board the vessel and lead it to the port of Ashdod."
In 2010, an Israeli naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla killed nine Turkish activists on board.
The incident sparked international condemnation that forced Israel to ease much of its blockade, although it maintains restrictions on key exports and imports of raw materials.