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ISRAEL

Ship to Gaza Swedes denied entry to Israel

Israel expelled a Swedish MP of Turkish origin who had been on a Gaza-bound aid ship intercepted in May by Israeli commandos, the interior ministry announced on Sunday.

Ship to Gaza Swedes denied entry to Israel
MP Mehmet Kaplan and Dr. Victoria Strand at a Stockholm press conference, June 2

Green Party MP Mehmet Kaplan was ordered to leave minutes after his plane landed in Israel because he had “failed to follow procedure” and obtain an entry visa in Sweden, ministry spokeswoman Sabine Hadad told AFP.

Dror Feiler, an Israeli artist based in Sweden who has relinquished his Israeli citizenship, was also expelled upon arrival at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, Hadad said.

The pair had been detained after Israeli commandos on May 31st intercepted an aid flotilla bound for the blockaded Gaza Strip and nine Turkish activists were killed when commandos raided the flagship, the ferry Mavi Marmara.

Passengers detained in the raid on the flotilla were later released after signing a letter “in which they pledged to obtain authorisation to enter Israel from Israeli embassies in their respective countries,” Hadad said.

“They [Kaplan and Feiler] were perfectly aware of these dispositions, but they did not respect them,” she said, explaining why the pair were barred from entering Israel on Sunday.

Northern Irish Nobel peace laureate and activist Mairead Maguire was deported from Israel in June because she had also tried to reach Gaza by boat in defiance of Israel’s naval blockade.

In October, the Israeli supreme court rejected Maguire’s appeal against a court decision ordering her deportation.

She was one of 19 activists on board the Irish-owned “Rachel Corrie,” which tried and failed to reach the Gaza enclave in early June.

Corrie was an American member of the International Solidarity Movement who was crushed to death in the Gaza Strip in 2003 by an Israel Defence Forces bulldozer while acting as a human shield in front of a local Palestinian’s home in an attempt to prevent its demolition by IDF forces.

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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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