We are hopeful that they are unharmed and safe, whatever course they have to take. Our prayers are with them.
Ashdod, (Israel): Israeli naval commandos seized an Irish-owned aid ship headed for Gaza Saturday morning, officials said.
The Israel military said it boarded the ship by sea with the compliance of the crew 35 kilometers (22 miles) off the Gaza coast.
The ship was being towed to Ashdod, Israel, where its cargo will be offloaded and screened, the military said. No helicopters were used, the military said.
Free Gaza movement spokeswoman Mary Hughes said the passengers of the MV Rachel Corrie were unharmed.
"This is unacceptable to be happening in international waters," she said.
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We've had no contact yet with either Shamsul or Matthias. So, the latest Reuters report from Jerusalem will have to do:
The Israeli navy prepared to board another aid ship bound for Gaza on Saturday, as Washington condemned as "unsustainable" a blockade which Israel enforced earlier in the week by killing 9 people aboard a Turkish vessel.
Irish and other activists on the Rachel Corrie ignored orders to divert to Israel's Ashdod port. Should it continue to approach the Palestinian enclave, the navy would board the vessel, an Israeli military spokeswoman said.
The stand-off in the Mediterranean came as Washington, Israel's key ally, said its blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip was "unsustainable and must be changed" -- the clearest sign yet of a shake-up in the embargo that has blighted the lives of 1.5 million Palestinians for the past four years.
Turkey, once Israel's main Muslim ally, has kept up its fury over the deaths of 9 Turkish nationals in the raid on Monday. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan harangued Israel on Friday about ignoring the Biblical commandment "Thou shalt not kill."
Autopsy results, as reported by a British newspaper, found 30 bullets in the activists who died. Among the victims was a Turk with U.S. citizenship.
A spokeswoman for the Free Gaza campaign group, whose contact with the crew was patchy, said warships had been sighted by the freighter around dawn, before 6 a.m. (0300 GMT).
Israeli spokeswoman Lieutenant-Colonel Avital Liebovich said the ship, named after an American activist killed in the Gaza Strip, had ignored radio calls to divert. "If they won't leave us any choice, we'll have to board the ship," she said.
Pro-Palestinian protester Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in 2003.
Israel says its blockade of the Gaza Strip, tightened after Islamist Hamas seized the enclave from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction in 2007, aims to keep out arms.
Washington urged the Gaza aid vessel to divert to an Israeli port to reduce the risk of violence, but also stated its belief that the controversial blockade could not last in its current form.
"We are working urgently with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and other international partners to develop new procedures for delivering more goods and assistance to Gaza," a spokesman for the White House National Security Council said.
"The current arrangements are unsustainable and must be changed. For now, we call on all parties to join us in encouraging responsible decisions by all sides to avoid any unnecessary confrontations," he added in a statement.
Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin said: "Those on board the Rachel Corrie have indicated that they are ready to accept inspection of their cargo at sea, prior to docking in Gaza."
GUNSHOTS AT CLOSE RANGE
Autopsy results on the nine dead Turkish activists from Monday's raid showed they had been shot a total of 30 times, many at close range, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported on Saturday. Five were killed by gunshots to the head, it said.
Turkish-American activist Fulkan Dogan was shot five times from less than 45 cm (18 inches) away, in the face, the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back, the paper said. In addition to those killed, 48 others received gunshot wounds and six activists were still missing.
In his angriest rhetoric yet, Erdogan accused the Jewish state on Friday of violating its own Bible:
"I am speaking to them in their own language. The sixth commandment says 'thou shalt not kill'. Did you not understand?" Erdogan said in a televised speech to party supporters.
"I'll say again. I say in English 'you shall not kill'. Did you still not understand?. So I'll say to you in your own language. I say in Hebrew 'Lo Tirtzakh'."
Ties between Turkey and Israel have soured badly and Ankara is threatening to rethink its entire relationship with the Jewish state. Protesters sang Turkey's praises at rallies in Egypt and Lebanon on Friday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a forum of senior ministers on Friday to discuss the arrival of the Rachel Corrie and actions to be taken following the international criticism Israel faced after Monday's events.