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Friday, 06 December 2019

Israel intercepts second Gaza-bound activist boat: Occupation army

AFP , Saturday 4 Aug 2018
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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 occupation military said on Saturday.

"The ship was monitored and was intercepted in accordance with international law," the occupation army 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".

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

The boat was carrying medical equipment.

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 waged three wars on Palestinians living 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.

Palestinians in Gaza have for months been demonstrating against Israel's decade-long blockade of the territory and in support of their right to return to lands they fled or were driven from during the war surrounding the creation of Israel in 1948.

In the wake of the ‘Great March of Return’ demonstrations, which started on 30 March, Gaza’s already overstretched health sector has been struggling to cope with the mass influx of casualties.

At least 160 Palestinians have been killed and thousands injured by Israeli occupation forces during the recent protests near the border with Israel.

Israel has maintained a crippling blockade on Gaza which it argues is necessary to isolate Hamas.

The blockade is worsening humanitarian conditions in Gaza, which human rights advocates have described as collective punishment of the Palestinians living in the strip.

The Gaza Strip faces an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, caused by over 10 years of Israeli blockade, alongside an internal Palestinian divide, which worsened in 2017, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

*This story has been edited by Ahram Online.

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