Israel warns it will keep ship out of Gaza waters

Israel has warned Finland that it will stop a ship sailing under the Finnish flag carrying human rights activists attempting to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza.

The Swedish-owned Estelle, carrying 17 activists from countries including Canada, Norway, Sweden, Israel and the United States, was near Crete midweek and expected to reach Gaza any day.

Part of the Freedom Flotilla movement, the Estelle reportedly is carrying humanitarian aid such as cement, basketballs and musical instruments. The small vessel began its journey in Sweden and toured Europe, including Finland, France and Spain, before arriving earlier this month in the Gulf of Naples.

The Freedom Flotilla’s first attempt to break the blockade on May 31, 2010 ended in the deaths of nine Turkish activists after Israeli navy commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara, which claimed to be carrying humanitarian aid, after warning the ship not to sail into waters near the Gaza Strip in circumvention of Israel’s naval blockade of the coastal strip. — jta