Estelle ship leaves from Naples to Gaza
Estelle ship leaves from Naples to GazaAFP/Maddalena Tartaro

Israel has warned Finland that it will stop a boat with activists on board by force if it tries to break the blockade on Gaza, a spokesman for Finland’s foreign ministry said Saturday.

"The foreign ministry has been informed by Israel that it would intervene if the ship Estelle which is flying the Finnish flag tries to break (Israel's) blockade against Gaza from the sea," spokesman Risto Piipponen said on state television, according to AFP.

"We told Israel that the Estelle is a civilian vessel and that its crew is made up of civilians," he said

The yacht, which was built in 1922, sailed from Naples, Italy on October 6 in the latest bid to break Israel's blockade.

It carries 16 people, mainly from Western countries but also one Israeli national, as well as humanitarian aid, AFP reported. Depending on weather conditions, it is expected to reach Gaza in around two weeks.

Canada's Gaza's Ark group, which supports the mission, said on its website the Finnish ministry had informed it of the Israeli warning.

" case SV Estelle seeks to break the blockade at sea on Gaza (20 nautical miles), Israel will intervene in the situation by using force. Should this take place, the safety of the people on board may be jeopardized”, the group quoted the Israeli message to the Finnish foreign ministry as saying.

The first Freedom Flotilla in May 2010 ended when nine Turkish nationals were killed after Israeli commandos had to board the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, when it refused orders to change course. Upon boarding the ship, the soldiers were attacked by the so-called activists aboard with clubs and knives, and had no choice but to use live fire.

It was later proven that there was no humanitarian aid on the Marmara, as its passengers had claimed.

A second attempt to break the blockade last summer with a coalition of ships setting sail from Athens failed after Greek authorities intercepted the boats, banning their departure and towing back into port those who tried to leave.