Navy seizes Gaza-bound boat that entered Israeli waters
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Navy seizes Gaza-bound boat that entered Israeli waters

Five Palestinians aboard vessel taken for questioning after ignoring calls to halt

Illustrative: Palestinian fishermen, as seen in boats at the port of Gaza City, May 13, 2015 (Aaed  Tayeh/Flash90)
Illustrative: Palestinian fishermen, as seen in boats at the port of Gaza City, May 13, 2015 (Aaed Tayeh/Flash90)

An Israeli Navy ship seized control of a Palestinian fishing boat from the Gaza Strip that entered Israel’s territorial waters on Monday. The boat did not respond to calls for it to halt nor to warning shots fired by soldiers.

Naval officers escorted the boat to the Ashdod port and five Palestinians who were on board were transferred to a security facility for questioning, the Ynet news site reported.

Late last month, Israel returned 15 fishing boats it commandeered in recent years off the coast of the Gaza Strip, the army said. Palestinian fishermen said it was the first time Israel had given vessels back, and demanded the return of dozens more.

Around 4,000 fishermen work in Gaza, more than half of whom live below the poverty line.

Israel, which has imposed an eight-year blockade on Gaza to prevent arms smuggling, bans fishing beyond six nautical miles (11 kilometers) off the coast. Boats exceeding that limit are at risk of being considered suspicious, and may be fired upon as possible arms-smuggling vessels.

The Israeli army has in the past intercepted a number of vessels that were attempting to smuggle arms.

In March 2014, naval commandos from the elite Shayetet 13 unit boarded and took control of the Klos-C merchant ship, sailing in the Red Sea under the Panama flag. Forty missiles, 181 mortars, and 400,000 bullets were found aboard, a cache the IDF said was supplied by Iran and headed to Gaza.

In March 2011, navy commandos intercepted the civilian vessel Victoria as it headed from Syria to Egypt and discovered 50 tons of Iranian weaponry on board. The Francop, which was boarded by IDF troops in November 2009, was found to be carrying 500 tons of weaponry in 36 unmarked cargo crates. In 2002 the Israeli army captured the Karine-A as it carried 50 tons of weaponry from Iran to Gaza.

In January 2009 the Cypriot merchant vessel Monchegors was found to contain a cache of Iranian weapons during an inspection by Cypriot authorities.

AFP contributed to this report.

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