Greek coastguard intercepts Gaza-bound Canadian ship

Mon Jul 4, 2011 5:29pm EDT
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By Renee Maltezou

ATHENS (Reuters) - The Greek coastguard on Monday intercepted a Canadian ship which had set sail for Gaza carrying medicine and pro-Palestinian activists who had defied a ban by the Athens government, activists said.

The boat, named "Tahrir," had left a port on the island of Crete, a Reuters witness said. Greek authorities have said that ships carrying activists destined for Gaza with aid for Palestinians were prohibited from leaving Greek ports.

One activist in Athens told Reuters that the crew of more than 40 people comprised mostly Canadians, but also nationals of

Belgium, France, Italy and Turkey.

"They (the Greek coastguard) gained control of our boat. We all resisted but nobody is seriously injured," activist David Heap, talking by telephone from the ship, said, adding:

"They seem to be taking us back to Crete, but our destination is and will remain Gaza. At this point, the boat has been seized but for the timebeing no one has been arrested."

Just over a year after nine activists were killed when Israeli marines stormed another pro-Palestinian flotilla, Greek authorities said on Friday that ships destined for Gaza were prohibited from leaving Greek ports -- even though they would be sailing into international waters.

Greece offered to ferry the humanitarian aid to the Palestinian Authority on Sunday after imposing the ban on the latest flotilla and arresting the captain of one of the boats.   Continued...

<p>Greek coastguards stand in front of Canadian boat "Tahrir" after forcing the Gaza-bound ship to return to the port of Agios Nikolaos on the island of Crete July 4, 2011. REUTERS/Stefanos Rapanis</p>