Israel vows to stop blockade-runners

2010-09-27 22:44

Jerusalem – Israel was adamant on Monday that its navy would stop a boatload of Jewish activists headed for Gaza, if they insisted on trying to run the blockade of the coastal strip.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor said so far there had been no contact with the crew of the "Irene", which left Cyprus on Sunday, and he did not know its current position.

He said that if the vessel headed for the Egyptian port of El Arish or Ashdod in Israel, it would be allowed to proceed unhindered and the goods would be transported to Gaza overland after inspection.

"The intention is to establish radio contact with them and ascertain where they intend to go," Palmor told AFP.

"If they say Gaza, then we shall explain to them that to (sail) to Gaza is forbidden.

"If they insist on entering the banned zone (32km off the Gaza coast), they will be stopped and taken to Ashdod," he said.

Yonatan Shapira, one of the seven activists on the small British-flagged sailing boat told AFP by satellite phone on Sunday that they were not looking for a fight.

"We have a policy of non-violence and non-confrontation," said the former Israeli pilot. "But if the Israeli army stops the boat, we will not help them to take it to Ashdod."

In May, Israeli forces intercepted a six-ship flotilla heading for Gaza but the raid went badly wrong and nine Turkish activists – including one with dual Turkish-US citizenship – were killed, prompting a wave of international condemnation.