A 70-foot trawler being used by a Swedish and Norwegian group to carry solar panels and medical equipment to Gaza was stopped and boarded by Israeli naval forces early Monday, to prevent them from breaking Israel’s blockade of Gaza.
In a press release issued by the “Ship To Gaza” organization, the group claimed they were halted in international waters about 100 nautical miles from Gaza. Two Norwegians were among those on board the vessel, which is part of the non-violent “Freedom Flotilla III.”
The Israelis reportedly were taking the boat to the harbour city of Ashdod in Israel. The boat itself was intended to be turned over to Gaza fishermen as a gift from the “Ship to Gaza” organization in Sweden and Norway. Gaza officials claim their fishing industry has been destroyed by the Israeli blockade, with fishing boats fired at “on a daily basis” according to the United Nations. The decline in fishing has in turn made 95 percent of fishing families in Gaza dependent on foreign aid.
The Norwegian branch of the organization has asked Norway’s foreign ministry to lodge a protest against Monday’s boarding by the Israeli forces, claiming it also violatesthe tenets of free international shipping.