NEWS
07/01/2011 06:24 EDT | Updated 08/31/2011 05:12 EDT

Tahrir, Boat Carrying Canada Protesters Bound For Gaza Strip, Stopped In Greece

CP

THE CANADIAN PRESS -- MONTREAL - A ship carrying Canadian protesters bound for the blockaded Gaza Strip has been prevented from leaving a port in Greece.

Organizers say Greek coast guards boarded the ship today and attempted to arrest a Canadian passenger for refusing to surrender the boat's registration papers.

The ship, known as the Tahrir, is part of a flotilla of nine Greek and foreign-flagged vessels that have been planning to break Israel's sea blockade and deliver aid to the Palestinian territory.

A vessel carrying American protesters was escorted back to shore today, as Greece announced it was banning vessels heading to Gaza from leaving Greek ports.

Israel says its sea blockade stops weapons from reaching Iran-backed Hamas militants who control Gaza. It warned it would stop any attempt to circumvent its restrictions.

A flotilla to Gaza last year ended in bloodshed, when nine people were killed and 45 were injured after Israeli soldiers boarded a Turkish ship.

But Canadian organizers with this year's flotilla say they aren't breaking any laws and will continue attempts to sail to Gaza.

"It is the blockade of Gaza that is illegal under international law," organizer Dylan Penner said in a statement.

"We have a legal and moral obligation to challenge the blockade, given the failure of the international community to act."

The setback on Friday followed a week of administrative delays that organizers attributed to Israeli pressure on Greece, which is mired in an economic crisis and has grown closer to Israel as it seeks more foreign investment.

On Thursday, an Irish ship said it had to abandon plans to set sail from the Turkish town of Gocek because of what it called Israeli sabotage.

Earlier this week, activists said the propeller of a Swedish ship in a Greek port was sabotaged.

Israel has not commented on the reports.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has called the convoy "provocative," while the United States had previously urged activists not to proceed with the flotilla, saying it could lead to confrontation and noted that there were other means of aid delivery.

-- with files from The Associated Press