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Israel navy seizes flotilla seeking to break Gaza blockade

Israel navy seizes flotilla seeking to break Gaza blockade

Jerusalem: Israeli naval forces boarded and took over a vessel attempting to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip and were escorting it to an Israeli port early on Monday.

The Israeli army, in a statement, said that it did not use force in redirecting the main boat Marianne to the Israeli city of Ashdod.

The organisers lost contact with the Marianne at around 2 a.m local time on Monday morning, as three military boats approached, Al-Jazeera reported quoting Petros Stergiou, a spokesperson for the flotilla.

"What we learned is that the Israeli navy attacked the Marianne around 100 nautical miles from the shore of Gaza," Stergiou said.

The Israeli military said the Navy had advised the vessel several times to change course in accordance with international law.

"Following their refusal the Navy visited and searched the vessel in international waters in order to prevent their intended breach of the maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip," it said in a statement.

"The forces have reported that use of force was unnecessary, and that the process was uneventful," it added. "The vessel is currently being escorted to Ashdod Port and is expected to arrive within 12-24 hours."

The so-called Freedom Flotilla III -- a convoy of ships carries pro-Palestinian activists, including former Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki, Spanish MEP Ana Maria Miranda Paza and Arab-Israeli lawmaker Basel Ghattas.

Their campaign comes as Israel faces heavy international pressure over its actions in Gaza, with a UN report released recently saying both the Jewish state and Palestinian militants may have committed war crimes during last year's conflict in the besieged coastal enclave.

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