Gaza Relief Boat Damaged in Encounter with Israeli Naval Vessel
An Israeli navel vessel rammed a boat carrying medical volunteers, relief supplies and journalists to Gaza early Tuesday as it attempted to intercept the vessel in the Mediterranean Sea. Israel denies intentionally hitting it, although The Dignity's crew insists they did.
CNN Correspondent Karl Penhaul was aboard the 60-foot, Gibraltar-registered pleasure boat Dignity when the contact occurred. When the boat later docked in the Lebanese port city of Tyre, severe damage was visible to the forward port side of the boat, and the front left window and part of the roof had collapsed.
The Dignity was carrying crew and 16 passengers -- physicians from Britain, Germany and Cyprus and human rights activists, including former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney -- who were trying to reach Gaza through an Israeli blockade of the territory.
Penhaul said at least two Israeli patrol boats had shadowed the Dignity for about half an hour before the collision, moving around the vessel on all sides. One of the patrol boats then shined its spotlight on the Dignity while the other, with its lights off, "very severely rammed" the boat.
The captain and crew said their vessel was struck intentionally, Penhaul said, but Palmor called those allegations "absurd."
"There is no intention on the part of the Israeli navy to ram anybody," Palmor said.
The incident occurred in international waters about 90 miles off Gaza. Israel controls the waters off Gaza's coast and routinely blocks ships from coming into the Palestinian territory as part of an ongoing blockade that also applies to the Israel-Gaza border. Human rights groups have expressed concern about the blockade on Gaza, which has restricted the delivery of emergency aid and fuel supplies.
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