Israel seizes Gaza-bound aid ship
A Lebanese ship carrying aid for Gaza was stopped by the Israeli navy
and is being escorted into port, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak
Earlier, officials in
Lebanon said Israeli gunboats had fired on the ship before soldiers
boarded it, although Israel denied this.
Lebanese PM Fouad Siniora has called on the international community to persuade
Israel to allow the shipment through.
In the West Bank, Israeli troops have killed a Palestinian militant.
The Israeli military said Ala a-Din Abu Rop was a local commander of the armed
wing of the Islamic Jihad group.
There have been sporadic incidents of violence since Hamas and Israel
declared separate ceasefires on 18 January, following Israel's
three-week attack on the Gaza Strip.
The aid ship was reported to have set off from the Lebanese port of
Tripoli on Tuesday carrying 50 tonnes of medical supplies, food,
clothing and toys for Gaza.
Also on board were eight activists and journalists, as well as the
former Greek-Catholic archbishop of Jerusalem, Monsignor Hilarion
Capucci, who had served time in an Israeli jail in the 1970s for his
membership of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).
An organiser of the shipment, Maen Bashur, said the
ship was confronted by an Israeli military boat 32km (19 miles) off the
Gazan coast late on Wednesday.
"We were informed by the crew that the Israeli forces
boarded the ship after firing shots at it," he told the AFP news
agency. "We have lost contact with them."
He said the ship was asked to turn back as "two Israeli military helicopters
flew over the area and fired flares".
The Israeli military denied troops had fired at the ship. "No gunshots
were fired on board during the boarding and capture of the cargo boat,"
Ehud Barak said the Israeli navy had requested the ship
head towards Egypt, and only boarded it after it headed back towards
"At first the ship understood we were prohibiting it from heading to Gaza and
steered towards El-Arish [in Egypt]," he said.
"From Egyptian territorial waters it tried to slip into Gaza waters.
That is when the Israeli navy boarded it, and it is now taking it to
[the Israeli port of] Ashdod."
Ala a-Din Abu Rop was shot dead by Israeli troops during a raid on his home
near Jenin, in the West Bank, on Thursday.
An Israeli military spokesman said the 21-year-old was suspected of involvement
in attacks on Israelis.
He was fully armed when troops stormed his home, and weapons and ammunition
were found during the search, the military said.
Ala a-Din Abu Rop's father said his son had been sleeping, alongside
his brothers, when soldiers broke into the house before dawn.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/02/05 12:38:44 GMT
© BBC MMIX
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