Israeli navy boards Rachel Corrie aid ship

12:27, June 06, 2010      

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An Israeli navy patrol boat maneuvers at the port of Ashdod June 5, 2010. Israeli forces seized an Irish-owned ship bound for Gaza on Saturday, boarding the Rachel Corrie close to the Gaza shore near the Mediterranean, an Israeli military spokeswoman said. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)Israeli navy soldiers boarded the Gaza-bound aid ship Rachel Corrie by sea after hours of face-off between the two sides Saturday noon.

The boarding was permitted by the vessel crews, and no incident took place in the action, said the Israel Defense Forces spokesperson's office in a statement.

The boat and its crew are being led to the Ashdod port and will be transferred to the custody of the appropriate authorities, the statement added.

The Rachel Corrie, named after a pro-Palestinian activist killed in Gaza in 2003, had been followed by three Israeli warships right after it approached the international sea near Gaza early morning in the day, activists onboard the ship said earlier in the day.

IDF said that the soldiers boarded the aid ship "without incident" after the activists rejected several calls issued by the navy to dock in Ashdod.

However, the Free Gaza Movement said in a statement on its website that Israeli naval commandos "stormed" the aid ship and towed the ship toward Ashdod, adding that the passengers onboard are believed to be unharmed.

The non-government organization, a major coordinator and organizer of the Gaza aid ship, said that the Rachel Corrie carried 11 passengers and 9 crews from 5 different countries, mostly from Ireland and Malaysia, and had intended to deliver over 1,000 tons of medical and construction supplies to the Gaza strip.

Activists aboard the aid ship released a statement earlier in the day that they invite for an independent inspection into the cargo on the ship by an independent party like the United Nations.

"In light of concerns by certain quarters i.e. the Israeli authorities, the activists have therefore unanimously agreed to allow for the inspection of the cargo on board," another non- governmental organization Perdana Global Peace quoted the statement as saying.

"They request and invite for an independent international body, preferably inspectors from the United Nations to board the ship and do the necessary to certify as to the nature of the cargo on board," it added.

The statement noted that there is no "weapons and any apparatus that may be used for harmful purposes" on the ship.

The latest tension between Israeli navy and pro-Palestinian activists came five days after at least nine people were killed and dozens of others were injured in a raid by the Israeli military on a Gaza-bound international aid flotilla with more than 600 people on board.

The Rachel Corrie was originally part of the flotilla, but it was delayed for sailing to Gaza reportedly due to mechanical problems.

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