Israeli Navy Seizes Swedish Activist Ship En Route to Gaza

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters) -

The Israeli navy seized a Swedish-flagged sailboat attempting to breach a blockade of the Palestinian Gaza Strip, the IDF said.

The 12 passengers are mostly from Sweden but also from Germany, Britain, Spain, France and Canada. They are in custody and will be put on flights home, a spokeswoman for the Israeli Immigration Authority said.

The SY Freedom for Gaza was carrying mainly medical supplies and two of its passengers were journalists, said an organizer from a group named Ship to Gaza which organized the trip.

“Ship to Gaza demands that those who have been taken prisoner and the ship and its cargo are returned to the location where the ship was boarded and are allowed to continue their journey in international and Palestinian waters unmolested, in accordance with international law,” the group said in a statement.

Israel says its naval blockade of Gaza is intended to prevent weapons from reaching terror groups, including Hamas. Israel and the United States designate Hamas as a terrorist organization.

“The IDF clarified to the ship’s passengers that they are violating the legal naval blockade and that any humanitarian merchandise can be transferred to Gaza through the port of Ashdod,” an IDF statement said.

Hamas officials had no immediate comment on the ship’s seizure. Similar attempts by activists to challenge the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza have been foiled before.