(Updates with Navy ordering ship to redirect to Israeli or Egyptian port in second paragraph.)
July 19 (Bloomberg) -- Israeli navy ships contacted a boat trying to challenge its blockade of the Gaza Strip, ordering it to redirect to another port because it won’t be allowed to dock in Gaza.
Sailors told the Dignite, sailing under a French flag, that it should divert to Israel’s Ashdod port or to Egypt, an Israeli army spokesman said, speaking anonymously according to military regulation. Three ships have surrounded the boat, Al Jazeera television reported.
The boat is carrying 10 activists plus crew members, according to the organizers of what was intended to have been a larger flotilla. Greek authorities have forbidden seven of the flotilla’s other vessels from departing its ports, saying they lack proper safety equipment.
A previous flotilla’s attempt to arrive in the Hamas- controlled Gaza Strip by sea ended in violence on May 31 last year when Israeli naval commandos dropped from helicopters onto the deck of the Mavi Marmara, part of the six-boat convoy, and opened fire after the ship refused to stop. Nine Turks were killed. Israel says people on board shot first and attacked with iron bars, an allegation the passengers denied.
The flotilla’s organizers say the blockade is illegal under international law and causing unnecessary hardship for Gaza’s Palestinian population.
The Israeli government says sufficient goods reach Gaza through its border crossings and that it needs the naval blockade to prevent arms smuggling to Hamas, the Islamic movement that is classified as a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S. and the European Union.
--With assistance by Dahlia Kholaif in Kuwait.
--Editors: Louis Meixler, Andrew J. Barden
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