Report: Gaza boat activists tasered

11:40 Oct 20 2012 international waters- exact coordinates unknown

TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma'an) -- An Israeli activist said naval forces used stun guns when they boarded a Finnish ship attempting to break the sea blockade of Gaza on Saturday, Israeli press reported.

Yonatan Shapira told his mother from Ashdod police station that the passengers were tasered, but unharmed, Israeli news site Ynet reported.

Israel's army said its forces took measures to ensure the safety of the passengers and did not use force. It intercepted the ship after all attempts to prevent its entry to Gaza were exhausted, and brought it to Ashdod, a military statement said.

The Estelle ship was carrying 30 activists from Europe, Canada and Israel, humanitarian cargo such as cement and goodwill items such as children's books, a mission spokesman said.

Organizers said their website was hacked on Saturday, rendering it inaccessible during the raid. The group is considering a police complaint, they said.


Navy seizes Gaza-bound Finnish ship
by Yoav Zitun for Ynet News

Commandos board ship carrying pro-Palestinian activists – including three Israelis – seeking to breach Israel blockade on Hamas-ruled territory; no violence reported. No humanitarian aid supplies found aboard ship, IDF says

Israeli Navy soldiers seized control of the Gaza-bound ship Estelle, which was seeking to breach Israel's naval blockade on Gaza, the army's Spokesperson's Unit reported at around 11:40 am on Saturday.The army said the soldiers boarded the Swedish-owned, Finnish-flagged ship which was carrying pro-Palestinian activists – including three Israelis – in accordance with the government's decision and international law, after diplomatic efforts to prevent the vessel from reaching Gaza's shore had failed.

The rerouted vessel arrived in the Ashdod port shortly after 9 pm. An initial search did not find any humanitarian aid supplies aboard the ship, the IDF said.

The raid was conducted by commandoes from the elite Shayatet-13 unit after Navy missile ships surrounded the Estelle.

"When the (ship's) passengers made it clear that they would not cooperate or accept the invitation to sail to the Ashdod Port, it was decided to seize the vessel and lead it to the Ashdod Port," the army said in a statement.

"The Navy force operated as planned to guarantee the safety of the soldiers and passengers on the deck. The soldiers did not use force while seizing the ship."

The passengers were to be handed over to police and immigration authorities once the ship reached Ashdod.

According to the Gush Shalom organization, three Israeli citizens were aboard the Estelle. The pro-Palestinian activists – Elik Elhanan, Reut Mor and Yonatan Shapira – were brought to the ship on a motorboat that arrived from Greece.

"I want to say that we are here to give a message of solidarity to the people of Gaza," Mor was quoted by CNN as saying from aboard the ship.

Before the ship was taken over, former Israeli national Dror Feiler, who took part in the sail, was quoted by pro-Palestinian media outlets as saying that the ship was "attacked at 10:15 (am)." According to him, six Israeli vessels surrounded the Estelle and masked soldiers attempted to board it. He claimed the attempt to intercept the ship was conducted in international waters.

The activists said the 53-meter vessel carried two olive trees, 41 tons of cement, books, toys and medical equipment.

The organizers of the "Ship to Gaza Sweden" campaign said the Estelle carried about 30 people, including parliament members from Sweden, Norway, Greece and Spain.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz has instructed the military Advocate General, Maj.-Gen. Danny Efroni, to explore legal options against the activists.

A senior Defense Ministry official said Israel "has a right to operate at sea to prevent the smuggling of arms to terror organizations."

He called the Estelle passengers "provocateurs who are drive by hatred for Israel."

The official stressed that "there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. More than 1,500 trucks carrying tons of goods enter Gaza each week through the land crossings."

The IDF stressed that the preparations to intercept the ship were conducted only after diplomatic efforts to stop the sail had failed.

The army said this week that the activists want to create a provocation and draw international media attention. Therefore, the army said, it plans to document the raid on the ship from several angles.

The Estelle is the latest in a series of activist-manned boats challenging Israel's blockade on Gaza, imposed after the terror group Hamas seized power of the coastal sliver in 2007. It left Naples, Italy, on Oct. 7.

AFP, AP contributed to the report
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