Israel navy intercepts ship seeking to break Gaza siege

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Israeli naval forces have intercepted a boat that set out from the Port of Gaza on Tuesday in hopes of breaking Israel’s decade-long blockade of the Gaza Strip.

In a statement, Adham Abu Silmiyya, a spokesman for Gaza’s National Committee for Breaking the Siege, said organizers had lost radio contact with the ship.

Abu Silmiyya told Anadolu Agency earlier that four Israeli naval vessels had surrounded the boat roughly eight nautical miles off Gaza’s coast.

He held Israel “fully responsible” for the safety of everyone aboard the ship, going on to urge the international community to extend protection to the beleaguered Palestinian people.

The Israeli military, for its part, has since confirmed that it intercepted the vessel, which is now reportedly being towed to Israel’s Port of Ashdod.

No injuries were reported during the ship’s interception, the army said in a statement.

The ship set out from Gaza on Tuesday carrying 20 Palestinian passengers, including university graduates; medical patients seeking treatment abroad; and Palestinians injured by recent Israeli violence near the Gaza-Israel security fence.

The main ship was accompanied by dozens of smaller vessels in a show of defiance against Israel’s crippling blockade, which has remained in effect since 2007 and which has brought Gaza to the verge of humanitarian catastrophe.

According to organizers, Tuesday's bid to break the blockade roughly coincides with the eighth anniversary of the Mavi Marmara incident (May 31, 2010), in which nine Turkish activists were killed by Israeli forces in international waters (with a tenth activist later succumbing to injuries).

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