Norway has asked the Israeli government to explain the legal grounds for detaining a Norwegian-flagged fishing boat seized, while activists tried to sail with aid to the Gaza Strip, Norway’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday.
According to Reurters report, the ministry said its diplomats in Israel had been providing consular assistance to five Norwegians who were among the 22 passengers and crew detained on board the vessel Kaarstein, on Sunday. Two Israelis on board were quickly released.
”We have asked the Israeli authorities to clarify the circumstances around the seizure of the vessel and the legal basis for the intervention,” the spokesman for the Norwegian foreign affairs ministry in Oslo said. A spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment.
Torstein Dahle, head of the group Ship to Gaza Norway which organized the shipment, said it was the first Norwegian aid vessel to attempt to breach the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
The captain had been struck on the head by Israeli soldiers who ordered him to sail for Israel, but no one was seriously hurt, Dahle said.
“This is a peaceful boat; it’s impossible that it can threaten Israel’s security,” he said.
Gaza Strip is home to 2 million Palestinians, mainly the stateless descendants of people who fled or were driven out of what is now Israel at its founding in 1948.
Under the blockade, Gaza has suffered an economic crisis creating what the World Bank describes as a “collapse in humanitarian conditions” including access to clean water, medicine and electricity.