Israel intercepts Gaza boat after setting sail to break blockade

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Israeli naval forces have intercepted a Palestinian vessel hours after it sailed off the coast of the besieged Gaza Strip, Israeli media reported.

The boat, carrying 25 Palestinians, was transferred on Tuesday to the Israeli port of Ashdod on Tuesday, according to the Israeli army.

Those on board were attempting to break an Israeli-imposed siege for the first time in more than a decade, and had set off with the intention of reaching Limassol, a coastal city in southern Cyprus.

Under the Oslo Accords signed in 1993, Israel is obligated to permit fishing up to 20 nautical miles, but this has never been implemented.

The widest range Israel has allowed in the past 10 years is 12 nautical miles (22km), and at times, the limit was reduced to one nautical mile.

Boats are often limited to six nautical miles (11km), and Israeli forces regularly fire warning shots to boats attempting to breach it.

The intercepted boat had crossed nine nautical miles (16km) before four Israeli warships flanked the vessel. Another boat did not cross the six nautical miles mark.

The flotilla carried patients, students and protesters who were wounded in weeks-long demonstrations, dubbed The Great March of Return, in the Gaza Strip.

Organisers of the voyage told Al Jazeera the captured boat went as far as 14 nautical miles when Israeli forces started shooting towards the vessel.

They lost contact with those on board shortly after that.

Passengers had valid passports, with the wounded having made arrangements to receive medical treatment in Turkey prior to leaving Gaza’s seaport.

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