Israel deports 15 activists arrested aboard ship to Gaza

Finland calls on Jerusalem to lift naval blockade ‘without delay’

The Gaza-bound schooner Estelle (photo credit: CC BY-SA Dabid Martinez Perez, Flickr)
The Gaza-bound schooner Estelle (photo credit: CC BY-SA Dabid Martinez Perez, Flickr)

Israel deported 15 international activists who were arrested after their ship, the Estelle, attempted to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza.

The pro-Palestinian activists were sent back to their homelands on Wednesday, with two more scheduled to be deported late Wednesday night. Ten other activists were deported on Sunday and Monday. Three of the activists are Israeli and were placed under house arrest.

Parliament members from Norway, Sweden, Spain and Greece were among the activists, as well as former Canadian lawmaker Jim Manly.

Israeli naval commandos on October 20 boarded the Estelle, a Swedish-owned, Finnish-flagged sailing vessel, as it approached Gazan territorial waters. The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that the commandos did not use force, while the activists allege that the commandos used Taser guns unnecessarily to subdue them.

Israel imposed the blockade on Gaza in 2007 after the terrorist group Hamas took control of the coastal strip. It says the sanctions are to prevent weapons and other terror material from being smuggled in to Gaza.

The Freedom Flotilla’s first attempt to break the blockade ended in the deaths of nine Turkish activists after Israeli Navy commandos on May 31, 2010 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 the maritime blockade.

Finland on Thursday called on Israel to lift its naval blockade on Gaza “without delay.”

“The blockade has negative repercussions for the political situation in the Middle East and is causing unnecessary suffering to civilians in Gaza,” Finland’s foreign ministry added in a statement.

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