Israel Gaza conflict
An Israeli navy vessel is silhouetted during a drill on international waters                 ( Amir Cohen/Reuters

The Israeli navy has seized a Gaza-bound flotilla carrying several pro-Palestine activists.

The fleet, led by Swedish-registered "Marianne av Göteborg" and followed by three smaller boats, was attempting to violate the Gaza blockade, said Israeli authorities.

The vessels will be taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod. Local reports suggest there were 47 pro-Palestinian activists on board the boats including Joint Arab List MH Basel Ghattas and former Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki.

The activists will be questioned by the Israeli authorities before being expelled.

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said in a statement: "In accordance with international law, the Israeli Navy advised the vessel several times to change course."

"Following their refusal, forces visited and searched the vessel in international waters in order to prevent the intended breach of the maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip. The forces have reported that use of force was unnecessary, and that the process was uneventful. The vessel is currently being escorted to Ashdod port and is expected to arrive within 12-24 hours."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hailed the Israeli forces for the seizure and heaped scorn on the organisers of the flotilla.

He said: "This flotilla is nothing but a demonstration of hypocrisy and lies that is only assisting the Hamas terrorist organization and ignores all of the horrors in our region. Preventing entry by sea was done in accordance with international law and even received backing from a committee of the UN Secretary General."