Israeli naval vessels stopped the advance of a pro-Palestinian boat attempting to reach Gaza today in defiance of Israel's blockade of the territory, the military said. The ships diverted the Estelle to the nearby port of Ashdod after passengers refused to steer the vessel off its course. The 30 or so passengers on board did not offer resistance. "Israeli naval soldiers boarded the Estelle en route to the Gaza Strip attempting to break the maritime security blockade," the statement said.
Victoria Strand, a spokeswoman for Ship to Gaza in Sweden, which sent the Estelle, said soldiers boarded the boat and cut their communications as they were some 30 nautical miles from Gaza. She said activists on board told her that some six naval boats surrounded their vessel. The Estelle left Naples, Italy, on Oct. 7 with about 30 people from eight countries, carrying items like cement, basketballs, and musical instruments. The ship is the only the latest in a series of activist-manned boats to challenge the blockade, imposed since the militant group Hamas seized the coastal territory in 2007.