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Israel Seizes Gaza-Bound Boat in International Waters

- Common Dreams staff

The Israeli navy seized an international pro-Palestinian activist ship on the Mediterranean high seas on Saturday to prevent it breaching Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, a military spokeswoman said.

This photo released by the Israel Defense Forces, shows the Swedish-owned, Finnish-flagged boat, Estelle as it near the waters off the Gaza Strip Saturday Oct 20, 2012. Israeli naval vessels seized the pro-Palestinian boat on Saturday in international waters. (IDF) "The Estelle is now under attack - I have just had a message from them by phone," Victoria Strand, a Stockholm-based spokeswoman for the Ship to Gaza Sweden campaign told the AFP news agency on Saturday.

According to Dror Feiler, another spokesperson, the Estelle, whose passengers include five parliamentarians from Europe and a former Canadian politician, was attacked at around 08:15 GMT.

"Five or six military vessels surrounded the Estelle. Soldiers wearing masks are now trying to board the ship. The attack took place on international water: N31 26 E33 45," Feiler said.

The Israeli military confirmed that the ship was boarded, after first denying that they had attacked or boarded it.

"The international human rights activists on the Estelle were trying to peacefully sail to Gaza, as is their right," said Jane Hirschmann, an organizer of the U.S. boat to Gaza. "The international community has a profound obligation to speak up against this unjust and illegal action and against the illegal blockade of Gaza's civilian population."

"As Americans, we call on the U.S. government to stop enabling Israeli government violations of international law," said Robert Naiman, Policy Director of Just Foreign Policy and a passenger last year on the U.S. Boat to Gaza, the Audacity of Hope. "If a country which was not a U.S. ally took these actions, the U.S. government would likely be critical. It's time to end this double standard in U.S. policy."

Among others, the following individuals were on board the Estelle:

Former Member of Parliament Manly James, Canada
Member of Parliament Hagen Aksel, Norway
Member of Parliament Britton Sven, Sweden
Member of Parliament Kodelas Dimitios, Greece
Member of Parliament Sixto Ricardo, Spain
Member of Parliament Diamantopoulos  Evangelos, Greece

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The activist ship Estelle is seen docked at Naples, Italy harbor in this October 6, 2012 photo. The Israeli navy seized the international pro-Palestinian activist ship in international waters on Saturday to prevent it breaching its blockade of the Gaza Strip, a military spokeswoman said. She said no one was hurt when marines boarded the SV Estelle, a three-mast schooner, and that it was rerouted to Israel's southern port of Ashdod after it ignored orders to turn away from the Hamas-governed Palestinian enclave. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca

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