Israel Navy boats intercepted a ship on Saturday morning headed for the blockaded Gaza Strip carrying aid and pro—Palestinian activists, organizers of the voyage said.

The Free Gaza organization posted a message on the microblogging website Twitter saying the ship, the Rachel Corrie, had not been boarded. A later update said all contact with the vessel had been lost.

A military spokeswoman in Tel Aviv did not comment on the report. A spokeswoman for the organizers said three Israeli vessels began shadowing the Rachel Corrie about 60 kilometres offshore.

Plan brokered by Ireland “rejected”

The activists on board reportedly rejected a plan brokered by Irish Foreign Minister Michael Martin to dock at Ashdod port — about 30 kilometres north of the Gaza Strip — where the aid goods would be unloaded and inspected before being transferred to the salient.

They insisted on sailing only to Gaza.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday it would not allow the “Rachel Corrie to break its naval blockade of the coastal enclave run by the radical Islamist Hamas movement.” “Gaza is still a war zone because of Hamas and there still is a blockade,” spokesman Yigal Palmor told the German Press Agency dpa.

Six aid ships with more than 700 international activists en route to Gaza were forcefully intercepted by Israel on Monday morning.

Nine activists were shot dead and dozens of others were wounded, in addition to seven Israeli soldiers, when the pre—dawn interception turned violent.

Israel placed the Gaza Strip under siege in June 2006, after a Palestinian militia launched a cross—border raid and captured an Israeli soldier, who is still being held captive in the salient.

The siege was tightened a year later, when Hamas, which rejects Israel’s right to exist, seized control of the Strip after routing security personnel loyal to the Palestinian Authority and President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party.

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