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Israeli forces seize ship heading for Gaza

  • Story Highlights
  • Israeli naval forces redirect Gaza-bound ship to Israeli port, citing security concerns
  • Ship originally agreed to go to Egypt, then tried to head to Gaza, Israelis say
  • "The actions of the boat crew raised suspicion," the IDF says
  • Ship carrying 50 tons of aid for Gaza, including medical supplies, coordinator says
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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Citing security concerns, Israeli naval forces early Thursday commandeered a ship trying to bring humanitarian supplies into Gaza and redirected it to an Israeli port.

The Israel Defense Forces said no gunshots were fired as Israeli naval forces boarded the vessel, named Tali, which had originated in Tripoli, Lebanon.

On Wednesday evening, the Israeli navy warned the vessel that it would not be allowed to enter Gaza because of security concerns and the existing naval blockade, the IDF said.

The ship's crew instead agreed to go to the Egyptian port of Al-Arish, "More than a thousand innocent civilians lost their lives" in the conflict, Brown said. the IDF said.

But, according to the IDF, the ship changed its bearing early Thursday and entered Gaza coastal waters, operating "in a manner that was suspicious and endangered the security interests of Israel."

"The actions of the boat crew raised suspicion, as it could threaten security concerns, or furthermore, the boat could be used for smuggling banned equipment (weaponry, etc.) in to or out of the Gaza Strip," the IDF said.

"After a further warning which was not adhered to, the Israeli navy took over the ship."

All the ship's passengers will be handed over to Israeli immigration police for questioning, and any humanitarian supplies found on the boat will be transferred to Gaza, the military said. The ship is heading for the Israeli port of Ashdod, according to the IDF.

Maan Bashur, who was coordinating the shipment of aid, said the ship's nine passengers included six Lebanese activists and a Lebanese religious man, a British activist and a Palestinian religious man.

Bashur said the ship was carrying 50 tons of aid for Gaza -- including medical equipment, food and toys -- when it was stopped Wednesday night about 20 miles off the Palestinian territory's coast by Israeli warships, backed by two helicopters.

He said the Israelis warned the Togo-flagged ship that any continuation of its journey would break international law.

In an unrelated move Thursday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged Israel to allow humanitarian relief into Gaza.

Brown said he had told Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that it's in both the Israelis' and Palestinians' interests for aid to get through into Gaza.

Israel waged a 22-day military offensive against Hamas, the Palestinian movement that controls Gaza, to try to stop rocket fire from the territory into Israel.

"More than a thousand innocent civilians lost their lives" in the conflict, Brown said at a joint appearance with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

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