Thirteen pro-Palestinian activists aboard a yacht were prevented from breaking through Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza early Wednesday. The yacht’s all-female crew included Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire and former U.S. diplomat (and Truthdig contributor) Col. Ann Wright. The Guardian reports:

Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza after Hamas seized power in 2007. It has crippled Gaza’s already weak economy, and prevented tens of thousands of people from traveling abroad for jobs, studies and other visits. Unemployment in Gaza stands at 40%.

Israel says the restrictions are needed to prevent Hamas importing weapons and that it has eased the blockade to allow more goods in. It considers Hamas a terrorist group, and has fought three wars against it since the militant group assumed power.

The yacht was reportedly intercepted by Israeli military forces about 40 miles from Gaza. Previous attempts to break through the Gaza blockade resulted in the death of nine Turkish citizens.

“The yacht, with an all-female crew, had been sailing under the Women’s Boat to Gaza activist mission,” Jaisal Noor of The Real News Network (TRNN) reports, adding that the failed activist mission “also comes the same day as the White House said it was disappointed by a new round of Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank and Israel and Hamas exchanged rocket fire over Gaza.”

TRNN provides a video message recorded by Col. Wright “before her capture.”

“If you’re seeing this, this means that the Israeli occupation forces have kidnapped me in international waters and taken me against my will to Israel,” Wright explains. “I ask that you call the President of the United States, Barack Obama, and my former boss, Secretary of State John Kerry, to raise great protests about the illegal actions of the Israeli military in kidnapping citizens from around the world in international waters and taking them to Israel.”

The Guardian states that the seized yacht was being taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod. “There was no word on what would happen to the people on board,” it reports. “In the past, activists have been arrested and quickly deported.”

Watch Col. Wright’s entire video message below:

Israel Seizes Yacht Attempting to Breach Gaza Blockade from the Real News Network on Vimeo.

—Posted by Emma Niles

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