Israel expels 15 Gaza boat activists, 2 more left

AFP , Wednesday 24 Oct 2012

Israel expels fifteen international pro-Palestine activists who tried reaching Gaza on Finnish-flagged Estelle but were intercepted 38 miles off the coast; two remain

Israel on Wednesday expelled 15 international activists who had tried and failed to reach Gaza by boat at the weekend in a bid to breach the maritime blockade on the territories, a spokeswoman for Israel's immigration service said.

"Fifteen foreign activists were expelled. Only two Norwegians are still in detention and awaiting expulsion," Sabine Hadad told AFP.

There were 30 pro-Palestinian activists and parliamentarians on board the Finnish-flagged Estelle which was on Saturday intercepted by the Israeli navy in international waters some 38 nautical miles off Gaza.

Of that number, three were Israelis and 27 were foreign nationals. Ten of them were sent home on Sunday and Monday.

Among those on board were 79-year-old Canadian and former lawmaker Jim Manly, as well as five members of parliament from Norway, Sweden, Spain and Greece.

Some activists accused the navy of using Taser guns to subdue them as they took over the vessel, their lawyer told AFP, in a claim dismissed by the Israeli military.

Israel says its blockade of the Gaza Strip is necessary to prevent weapons from entering the coastal territory, which is run by the Islamist Hamas movement.

In May 2010, pro-Palestinian activists tried to reach the Gaza Strip in a six-ship flotilla which was stormed by Israeli troops in a botched pre-dawn operation which left nine Turkish nationals dead, sparking a diplomatic crisis with Ankara.

Since then, there have been several other attempts to reach Gaza by boat, all of which have been stopped by Israel, although there has been no repeat of the bloodshed.

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