Reports from the passengers aboard the ship said that the vessel carrying an Asian Aid Cargo for the besieged people in Gaza was chased by the Israeli frigates and aircraft since early morning hours and was later forced to a halt by several units of Israeli commandos in international waters.
Unofficial sources said that the Israeli commandos have made several arrests, although they have not faced any resistance by those onboard the vessel and although the ship was moving from Syria to Egypt.
The ship, carrying only eight members of the Gaza-bound Asian convoy, left Syria’s Lattakia Port for al-Arish Port in Egypt on Saturday.
The eight members include peace activists from Azerbaijan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan.
Egypt has already granted permission to a number of activists to cross its border with Gaza. Cairo’s approval is required to reach the Gaza Strip through the shared Rafah crossing, particularly since Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip was tightened in 2007.
The convoy, which currently has activists from 18 different nationalities onboard, began its journey from the Indian capital, New Delhi and traveled through Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and Lebanon.
The move came nearly seven months after Israeli forces raided the Gaza Freedom Flotilla on May 31. Over 100 Israeli soldiers supported by military choppers boarded a Turkish ship, Mavi Marmara, leading the six-ship convoy in international waters.
The Israeli commandoes killed 20 international human rights activists and wounded 80 more. Nine of the victims were Turkish nationals. Some members of the European parliaments, former western diplomats, reporters and human rights activists were among the victims of Israel’s brutal act.
The siege of Gaza started in June 2007 when Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip. This was supported by the governments of Egypt and the US.
The blockade consists of a land blockade along Gaza’s borders with Egypt and Israel and a sea blockade. It immediately followed the 2006-2007 economic sanctions against the Palestinian National Authority following the election of Hamas to the Palestinian government.
The blockade has attracted criticism from many Human Rights organizations. September 2009 UN fact-finding mission found that the blockade of Gaza “amounted to collective punishment” was likely a war crime and a crime against humanity and recommended that the matter be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC).