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Israel seizes another Gaza-bound aid ship

June 2, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Israeli naval commandoes seized an Irish-owned ship containing humanitarian aid heading toward Gaza Saturday morning.The ship was carrying 11 pro-Palestinian activists, including an Irish Nobel laureate, along with at least eight crew members and hundreds of tons of humanitarian aid.

Israeli naval commandos swiftly commandeered the Gaza-bound ship, the "Rachel Corrie," just 20 miles from Gaza's shores and forced it to head to an Israeli port of Ashdod instead.

Officials say that all those aboard the Rachel Corrie will be deported and those who object will be detained and given chance to appeal.

Those aboard included Mairead Corrigan, who won the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her work with Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, and the former U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, Denis Halliday.

The latest boarding comes just five days after similar effort to stop six aid ships turned deadly.

Since the attack the diplomatic ties between Israel and Turkey have hit a new low. Israel ordered families of its diplomats out of that country a day after Turkey branded the raid a "massacre."

Latest developments:

  • The Obama administration had adopted a gradual approach of persuading Israel to ease restrictions, but officials said Friday that the U.S. was working "urgently" with Israel, the Palestinian Authority and other international partners to find ways to bring more goods into Gaza.
  • Officials at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv say all of the foreign activists have been taken to the airport to be deported. Turkish and Greek protesters were to fly home on special planes sent by their respective governments, while other foreigners were to travel home on commercial flights.
  • The assault on the flotilla continued to stir anger in Ankara, where Turkish lawmakers on Wednesday called on the government to review its political, military and economic ties with Israel. In a declaration approved by a show of hands, the lawmakers also said Israel must formally apologize for the raid Monday on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla, pay compensation to the victims and bring those responsible to justice.
  • Israeli officials said the decision not to prosecute any of the activists, despite suspicions that they were sent to attack Israeli forces on the ship, was an attempt to limit damage to Israel's relations with Turkey, said an unofficial sponsor of the flotilla.
  • Meanwhile, Turkey's parliament called on the government Wednesday to review all ties with Israel. A heated debate continues on whether to impose military and economic sanctions on Israel.
  • Hundreds of Turks protested Israel's commando raid for a third day Wednesday.
  • Also Wednesday, Egypt eased its blockade of Gaza after the assault and at the newly opened crossing in the border town of Rafah, about 300 Palestinians entered through Gaza's main gateway to the outside world. A smaller number entered Gaza from Egypt and humanitarian aid also came in including blankets, tents and 13 power generators donated by Russia and Oman.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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