The Israeli navy has seized the Zaytouna-Oliva, a Gaza-bound aid ship, according to the initiative’s organizers and reports in the Israeli media.
Sondos Ferwana, a media spokeswoman for the International Coalition for the Fourth Freedom Flotilla, told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday evening that Israeli naval forces had "captured the ship".
When asked for comment by Anadolu Agency, the Israeli military declined to comment.
But according to reports on Israel’s Channel Two television station, Israeli naval vessels had assumed control of the aid ship and were preparing to tow it to the Israeli port of Ashdod.
The aid ship was intercepted -- without resistance -- some 80 kilometers off Gaza’s coast, the broadcaster reported.
Ferwana described the incident as "another act of Israeli piracy", adding that all contact with the ship -- which is carrying humanitarian aid and several female activists -- had been lost.
"We don’t know the fate of the activists aboard," she told Anadolu Agency.
Those aboard the Zaytouna-Oliva, which set sail from the Spanish city of Barcelona last month, include Irish Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire, Swedish and Algerian lawmakers, a South African Olympic athlete and a Malaysian doctor.
The all-female initiative seeks to break Israel’s decade-long blockade of the Gaza Strip and show solidarity with the women of Gaza.
In June of last year, Israeli forces intercepted the "Marianne" -- which had been taking part in a similar initiative -- and arrested all activists on board.
A similar Gaza-bound aid flotilla ended in tragedy in 2010 when the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish aid ship, was raided by Israeli commandos, killing 10 Turkish activists.
Since 2007, the Hamas-run Gaza Strip has groaned under a crippling Israeli/Egyptian blockade that has deprived its almost two million inhabitants of most basic commodities, including food, fuel, medicine and desperately-needed building materials.
In June, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the blockade of Gaza as "collective punishment", which, he asserted, "suffocates its people, stifles its economy and impedes reconstruction efforts".
By Ali Abo Rezeg
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