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ISRAEL

Ship to Gaza to set sail again

The organisers of an aid flottilla Ship to Gaza said in Stockholm on Wednesday they would make a new attempt to reach the Palestinian territory before the end of 2010.

Ship to Gaza to set sail again

“We are going to send a flotilla if the siege is not lifted,” Ship to Gaza Sweden spokesman Dror Feiler told AFP after the group’s meeting in Stockholm.

A six-ship fleet first attempted to reach the Palestinian territory on May 31 but it was halted by an Israeli raid that left nine Turkish activists dead.

“We will go (again) before the end of this year and we are quite sure that this flotilla will be more boats, bigger boats, it will be several passenger boats,” said Feiler, who took part in the flotilla’s first trip.

“And as determined before, we will not accept Israeli control, we will not accept Israeli inspections and we will go to Gaza,” the Israeli-born Swedish artist and longtime activist said.

“We hope that Israel and the international community will realise it is not possible to stop this and that it is not acceptable to continue with the siege,” he added.

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition said in a statement it planned to enlarge the coalition “to include the various groups around the world that want to join us, as well as intensify our efforts to mobilise a new flotilla.”

“We are buying boats, we are getting a lot of funds to get more boats,” Feiler said, adding the “Ship to Gaza” movement had spread to France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Norway, Australia, United States and Canada.

Wednesday’s meeting was “coordination of our efforts, discussion with the new groups,” Feiler said.

He said an exact date had not been set for the future attempt because of boat purchasing and licensing issues, and the weather.

Israel sparked international outrage when its commandos attacked the fleet early on May 31. Israeli troops then forced the six ships in the convoy to dock at an Israeli port, before detaining those on board.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Monday announced the formation of a four-member panel to probe the deadly raid. Israel has backed the investigation.

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition said Wednesday it had “fundamental concerns” with the panel, and that the easing of the Gaza blockade announced by Israel on June 21, was “purely cosmetic.”

Israel imposed the siege on the Gaza strip in June 2006 after its soldier, Gilad Shalit, was captured by Gaza militants, tightening it a year later when Hamas seized power in the coastal strip.

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ISRAEL

Israel intercepts Swedish Gaza-bound activist boat

The Israeli navy intercepted a Swedish-flagged activist boat bent on breaching its more than decade-long blockade of Gaza, the second in less than a week, the military said on Saturday.

Israel intercepts Swedish Gaza-bound activist boat
Photo: TT

“The ship was monitored and was intercepted in accordance with international law,” the military said in a statement, before the vessel, named Freedom for Gaza and carrying 12 people, was taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod.

“The (military) clarified to the ship’s passengers that they are violating the legal naval blockade and that any humanitarian merchandise can be transferred to Gaza through the Port of Ashdod,” the statement said.

The people on board were taken for “further inquiry.”

The organisers of the flotilla said the boat, which was carrying medical supplies, was intercepted in international waters.

“The demands of Ship to Gaza are that the ship with its crew and cargo will be returned to the site of the boarding, and that they will be allowed to go in peace through international and Palestinian waters in accordance to international law,” they said in a statement.

“This is a demand that the eleven years-long illegal and destructive blockade on Gaza will be lifted at last.”

Freedom was the second boat of the “Freedom Flotilla” to be intercepted en route to “break the blockade” on Gaza, organisers said.

Four boats left from Scandinavia in mid-May and stopped in some 28 ports along the way, with two remaining behind after a recent stop in the Italian port of Palermo.

On Sunday, the Israeli navy intercepted a Norwegian-flagged activist boat that was part of the flotilla.

Israel has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in Gaza since 2008 and says the blockade is necessary to keep them from obtaining weapons or materials that could be used for military purposes.

UN officials have called for the blockade to be lifted, citing deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian enclave run by Islamist movement Hamas where 80 percent of the two million population are dependent on aid.

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