Israel attacks second Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla boat

The crew of The Freedom, one of the vessels which tried to break the siege of Gaza

Israeli occupation forces have attacked a second boat attempting to break its devastating blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military said in a statement this morning that the boat, which is called The Freedom and was sailing under a Swedish flag, was towed to port in Ashdod.

“The forces made it clear to the sailors that they were violating the blockade and that any humanitarian supplies [it is carrying] can be delivered to Gaza through the port of Ashdod,” the Israeli Defence Forces said, noting that the boat was tracked and stopped in accordance with international law.

However, the Freedom Flotilla group said that “The Freedom” was “under attack” after contact was lost on Friday evening.

The boat was one of two vessels making up the flotilla, alongside “The Return,” which was stopped earlier this week.

The flotilla was organised by the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, an umbrella of organizations aiming to end the closure of Gaza, and set sail from the Danish port of Copenhagen.

Those on board the ships include Prof. Ismail Nazari, chairman of Malaysia’s boycott Israel campaign; Charlie Andreason of Sweden, who spent time in Israeli detention for his role on the Marianne, a Swedish-flagged trawler leading a flotilla of boats in June 2015; Spanish Jewish activist Zohar Shamir Chamberlain; and Heather Milton-Lightening, an activist for indigenous Canadians.

Also on board were Press TV journalist Richard Sudan and Hispan TV journalist Ian Diez.

All now face days of detention, interrogation and possible violence in Israel before being deported.

The flotilla’s two-month journey saw the ships stopping off at several European ports to take part in activities supporting the Palestinians’ “March of Return.”

Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza since 2007. It says the blockade is in place in order to prevent weapons and other military equipment from entering the Strip. But critics point to dire humanitarian conditions in Gaza and say the blockade amounts to collective punishment of the 2 million Palestinians living there.

Egypt, too, has kept its Gaza border crossing largely closed during several years of sour relations with the Hamas group ruling Gaza.

Many attempts have been made to draw attention to the Palestinian cause using blockade-busting flotillas.

The most notorious flotilla sailed in 2010 and involved the Turkish flag-bearing Mavi Marmara, the biggest ship in a six-vessel convoy. Nine Turkish citizens, including one with American citizenship, were killed in the Israeli attack, and a tenth died of his wounds years later.

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