Israeli naval forces on Tuesday boarded a French yacht that was heading for the Gaza Strip, a military spokeswoman said. "In accordance with government directives, after all diplomatic channels had been exhausted and continuous calls to the vessel had been ignored, IDF Navy soldiers boarded the Al-Karame in an effort to stop it from breaking the maritime security blockade on the Gaza Strip," an official statement said.
According to AFP, the operation was conducted peacefully and that the ship was being towed towards the Israeli port of Ashdod. "Upon the arrival of the vessel at the Ashdod port, the relevant security authorities and the Israel Police will begin the process of questioning the passengers, who will then be transferred to the Ministry of Interior and the Immigration authorities," the declaration added.
The ship, which is carrying 16 people, most of them French activists, was commandeered by the navy shortly after Israel army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz authorized the move, the spokeswoman said.
The navy first approached the boat some five hours earlier and started a dialogue with those on board who had insisted they would pursue their course for Gaza. "Upon expressing their unwillingness to arrive at the Ashdod port, it was unequivocally necessary to board the vessel and lead it there," the military statement said.