Israel Asks UN to Block Ship Headed for Gaza

Israel's UN envoy asked the world body to try to persuade a Swedish ship carrying rights activists not to try to break the Jewish state's blockade of the Gaza Strip.

"I call on the Secretary-General, the Security Council, and all responsible members of the international community to take immediate action to end this provocation," the envoy, Ron Prosor, said in a letter Tuesday to UN chief Ban Ki-moon, and the council's president for October, Guatemalan envoy Gert Rosenthal.

Prosor said the sailing vessel Estelle, which left the Italian port of Naples on Saturday, was expected to arrive near Gaza in about a week.

He added that the Gaza blockade was solely for security purposes, saying: "There is not a single civilian good that cannot enter Gaza."

"I want to stress that Israel is not interested in confrontation, but remains determined to enforce its naval blockade of the Gaza Strip -- and will take all lawful actions to this end," Prosor wrote.

"Their clear provocation raises tensions and could easily spark a serious escalation of the conflict."

The Israeli ambassador to the United Nations said the rights activists aboard the Estelle should instead head for Syria to deliver goods much-needed to address the humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country.

He noted, however: "They understand that it is much easier to face news cameras in Tel Aviv than bullets in Damascus."

The Estelle, whose voyage was organized by an international pro-Palestinian coalition, is carrying humanitarian goods to the Gaza Strip.

The 17 activists on board include passengers and crew from Canada, Israel, Norway, Sweden and the United States.

Israel says the blockade -- imposed in June 2006 -- is necessary to prevent weapons from entering the coastal territory, which is run by the Islamist movement Hamas.

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