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Ship to Gaza activists taken to Israeli port

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Ship to Gaza activists taken to Israeli port
Photo: Ship to Gaza
08:43 CEST+02:00
The pro-Palestinian activists onboard the Ship to Gaza vessel Estelle which was boarded by Israeli soldiers on Saturday, have been take into custody in the port of Ashdod.

The Estelle was boarded by Israeli forces at 10.15 CET on Saturday morning and arrived in the port of of Ashdod at 21.52, according to Marinetraffic.com.

Some of the eleven Swedes among the activists onboard Estelle have been given access to Swedish embassy staff, according to the TT news agency.

"We have very briefly been able to talk with most of the Swedes. They have said that are feeling fine and look fine. That is the most important thing," said Mats Samuelsson at the foreign ministry.

According to media reports the activists, which include MPs, academics, artists and writers from several countries, all be given deportation orders to sign or appeal within 72 hours.

Israeli navy surrounded and boarded the Estelle on Saturday morning, according to reports from the crew which were later confirmed by an Israeli government spokesperson.

Israel maintains that the interception was "peaceful and legal", according to a Twitter statement by a defence forces spokesperson.

This has however been disputed by the Ship to Gaza movement, which claims that electric pistols were used by the navy forces.

Mikael Löfgren at Ship to Gaza told The Local on Saturday that contact was lost with the crew shortly after the troops boarded the vessel.

The incident occurred in international waters around fours hours from the Estelle's stated destination, Gaza City.

The Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip has been in place since Hamas won the Palestinian legislative election in 2006.

Israel maintains that the blockade is necessary to limit rocket attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip, while legal opinion on the blockade remains divided.

A UN investigative committee in September 2011 concluded in the Palmer Report that the naval blockade is legal, although the United Nations Human Rights Council and the International Committee of the Red Cross have called the blockade illegal.

Ship to Gaza is part of the Freedom Flotilla which aims to raise awareness by attempting to break Israel's sea blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Two years ago at the first attempt to reach Gaza by sea, a Turkish vessel in the flotilla was boarded by Israeli soldiers resulting in the death of nine activists.

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