Israeli Navy soldiers seized control of the Gaza-bound shipEstelle, which was seeking to breach Israel's naval blockade onGaza, 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, 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 raid was conducted by commandoes from the elite Shayatet-13 unit after Navi 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 army added that once the ship reaches Ashdod the passengers will be handed over to police and immigration authorities.
Victoria Strand, a Stockholm-based spokeswoman for the campaign, told AFP earlier that the Estelle had "come under attack" shortly after being approached by Israeli vessels.
Before the ship was taken over, Israeli activist 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 53-meter vessel is carrying two olive trees, 41 tons of cement, books, toys, and medical equipment.
The organizers of the "Ship to Gaza Sweden"campaign said the Estelle is carrying about 30 people, including parliament members fromSweden, Norway, Greece and Spain.
Also sailing are a priest, a lawmaker, and Reut Mor, an Israeli activist.
"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 Estelle.
"The siege is inhuman and immoral, and this is the reason - as non-violent peaceful activists - (we) decide(d) to risk ourselves and break the siege."
Over the past few days the Navy completed its preparations for the latest Gaza-bound flotilla. 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.
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