The Israeli navy said on Sunday that it had stopped a ship of activists trying to break its blockade of the Gaza Strip. The Al-Awda ship was rerouted to the nearby city of Ashdod.
The vessel was carrying 22 people from 16 countries and bore a Norwegian flag. The navy said it informed the passengers that they were "violating the legal naval blockade," and that if they had humanitarian aid to deliver, there were other ways to get it to Gaza.
Activists: Israel 'hijacked' vessel
But the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, a charity umbrella group, wrote on Twitter that Israeli forces had "hijacked" the ship.
"The Israeli navy claims our ship is breaking international law and threatens that they will use 'any measures necessary' to stop us," it said.
"In fact, the only 'necessary measures' would be to end the blockade of Gaza and restore freedom of movement for all Palestinians."
The group argued that the supplies the activists had with them were a "small but important contribution to the increasingly dire medical situation" in Gaza.
Gaza's 2 million inhabitants have been living under the blockade since 2007, when the militant group Hamas took over the area. Assisted by Egypt, Israel says the move is necessary to prevent Hamas from arming.
Activists have tried to break through several times, the most well known of which was a 2010 attempt that left nine Turks dead at the hands of Israeli naval commandos. Israel said that this time, the ship was intercepted without incident.
This time, the Freedom Flotilla Coalition said most of the activists were European, but also came from Malaysia, the US, and Israel.
es/aw (AP, AFP)