A picture taken on Tuesday shows fishing boats carrying a group of Palestinian activists who are protesting Israel’s naval blockade on Gaza, setting sail from Gaza City harbour. Image Credit: AFP

Gaza: The Israeli occupation regime stopped and seized control of a Palestinian protest boat Tuesday, organisers said, as those aboard sought to demonstrate against the Jewish state’s blockade of Gaza.

The incident occurred amid high tensions in the Gaza Strip after Palestinian fighters fired dozens of mortars in the direction of Israel, whose occupation force retaliated by hitting dozens of targets in Gaza.

The occupation regime said some dozens of mortar shells were launched towards Israel from the Gaza Strip yesterday, with most intercepted by the country’s air defence.

The boat, carrying sick Gazans and those unable to find work, was stopped by Israeli regime forces several kilometres out at sea, Salah Abdul Atti, one of the organisers, told AFP.

“Israeli [occupation] forces surrounded it and intercepted it,” he said, adding communications had been lost with the boat.

He said they had been informed the boat and its passengers would be taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod.

Organisers said they were seeking to highlight the impact of the blockade on Gaza’s two million residents.

One main boat carrying around 20 people accompanied by a group of smaller ones had set off from the fishermen’s port in Gaza City on Tuesday morning.

There were conflicting statements about whether the boats would seek to break Israel’s blockade, which currently allows them to travel nine nautical miles off the coast.

Organisers said the boat was 12 nautical miles off the coast when contact was lost.

Under the Oslo Agreements of the 1990s, fishermen are supposed to be allowed to fish up to 20 nautical miles off the coast.

In 2010, Israeli occupation regime killed nine Turkish activists by raiding a six-ship flotilla trying to reach the Gaza Strip in defiance of the blockade. Another activist died years later.

The botched raid angered Turkey and saw it cut off ties with Israel until 2016.

Separately Tuesday, the occupation regime said some dozens of mortar shells were launched towards Israel from the Gaza Strip, with most intercepted by the country’s air defence system.

It appeared to be the largest such barrage from Gaza targeting Israel since a 2014 war.

Israeli regime struck more than 30 “military targets” in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday afternoon.

The Gaza Strip has been under Israeli blockade for more than a decade.

The boat protest comes after weeks of demonstrations along the Gaza-Israel border, beginning on March 30.

The protests have called for Palestinians who fled or were expelled in the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation to be allowed to return to their former homes now inside Israel.

They peaked on May 14, when at least 61 Palestinians were massacred by the regime as tens of thousands of Gazans protested on the same day of the US transfer of its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem.

Demonstrations and clashes have continued at a low level since then. At least 121 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli occupation regime since March 30. AFP