Israeli Navy Intercepts 'Freedom Waves' Flotilla

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- The Israeli Navy intercepted two yachts that set sail from Turkey, Wednesday, with the goal of breaking Israel's naval blockade.

A short video of a naval official calling on the ships to abort their mission was released by Israel's military.

"The Gaza area and coastal region are closed to maritime traffic as part of a blockade imposed for security purposes," the unnamed officer said.
     
"Your attempt to enter the Gaza Strip by sea is a violation of international law," the officer stated. "We remind you that humanitarian supplies can be delivered to the Gaza Strip by land, and you are welcome to enter (Israel's) Ashdod port and deliver supplies through land crossings."

The flotilla, dubbed "Freedom Waves," is reportedly carrying an estimated 30 pro-Palestinian activists from Australia, Ireland and Canada, with an Iranian and an Israeli-Arab activist aboard.

The U.S. strongly advised its citizens not to take part in efforts to breach Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The U.N.-sponsored Palmer Commission affirmed in its report last September that the blockade is legal under international law.

"U.S. citizens attempting to break Israel's naval blockade of Gaza could face action for violating Israel and American law," the State Department warned. The U.S. considers Hamas, the Palestinian faction controlling Gaza, a terror organization.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland praised Turkey's decision not to provide a naval escort for the yachts, as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened last September.

"We've been clear to them (Turkey) that we think that would be an extremely bad idea," Nuland told reporters.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said his government appreciates the "freedom vessel's" efforts to "help end the siege on Gaza," calling Israel's interception an "official act of piracy."

"The international community should accept responsibility and defend the ships trying to show their solidarity with Gaza," Zuhri said.

Israel believes the activists are not so much interested in delivering "aid" to Gaza as they are to provoking a confrontation for the media to embarrass Israel.

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