UPDATED: Norway’s foreign ministry has asked Israeli authorities to explain how they can justify halting and boarding the Norwegian fishing boat Kårstein in international waters last Sunday, 53 nautical miles off Gaza. The Kårstein had medical equipment and activists on board.
Five Norwegians were among those arrested and jailed in Israel, including Mikkel Grüner, a member of the Bergen City Council, and Gerd von der Lippe of the organization Ship to Gaza Norway. Nearly 20 activists from several countries were arrested by Israeli soldiers who boarded the ship, with two of them launching a hunger strike in jail to protest the Israeli military action against them.
Frode Overland Andersen, communications chief for the Norwegian foreign ministry, said that officials from Norway’s embassy in Tel Aviv had visited the jailed Norwegian citizens and offered consular assistance. The five Norwegians were released as of Thursday morning and one of them had been able to fly back to Norway.
Norwegian authorities remain concerned about the incident, similar to those that have occurred in earlier years. “The embassy in Tel Aviv has contact with Israeli authorities in connection with the case,” Andersen said. “We have asked Israeli authorities to clarify the sequence of events and on which grounds they believe they had the power to board the vessel.”
The Israeli Embassy in Oslo has referred to the boat and the activists on board as “a political provocation.” The boat was sailing under the name Al Awda (The Return).