Israel navy boards Gaza-bound boats

The military said forces boarded the boats after repeated calls for them to turn around were ignored. The boarding was done peacefully and nobody was hurt, the military said.

It was the latest attempt by pro-Palestinian activists heading for Gaza by boat to draw attention to a 5-year-old blockade of the impoverished coastal strip that critics say amounts to collective punishment of its residents. Israel says its naval blockade is vital in preventing weapons from reaching violent groups like Hamas, the Iranian-backed militant group that rules the Gaza Strip.

Once the vessels reach the port of Ashdod, the activists will be questioned by police and immigration officials and then sent back to their home countries as soon as possible, said Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

There were 27 activists from nine different countries including the US and Ireland aboard the boats.

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