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Israeli military storm Gaza bound aid ship; invite strong condemnation

Saturday October 20, 2012 10:44:22 PM, Against

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Palestinians urge protection to Gaza-bound boat

The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) Sunday called for international protection to a boat carrying pro-Palestinian activists trying to break Israel's naval blockade on the Gaza Strip, reported Xinhua  

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Gaza: A ship carrying pro-Palestinian activists seeking to breach Israel's naval blockade on Gaza has "come under attack"  shortly after being approached by Israeli vessels, a spokeswoman said.

"The Estelle is now under attack - I have just had a message from them by phone," Victoria Strand, a Stockholm-based spokeswoman for the Ship to Gaza Sweden campaign told the AFP news agency on Saturday.


The Israeli action has invited strong reaction from Palestinians. A number of Palestinian officials and activists while condemning Israel's interception of a Gaza-bound Finnish boat, called for an urgent international intervention to end the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip which had lasted for more than five years.


According to Dror Feiler, another spokesperson, the Estelle, whose passengers include five parliamentarians from Europe and a former Canadian politician, was attacked at around 08:15 GMT.

"Five or six military vessels surrounded the Estelle. Soldiers wearing masks are now trying to board the ship. The attack took place on international water: N31 26 E33 45," Feiler said.

The Israeli military confirmed that the ship was boarded, after first denying that they had attacked or boarded it.

"A short while ago, Israeli navy soldiers boarded Estelle, a vessel which was en route to the Gaza Strip, attempting to break the maritime security blockade," it said in a statement.

The boat was then set sail from Naples, Italy, on Oct 7. It carries more than a dozen activists, most of them from Western countries, and humanitarian aid.

It was scheduled to arrive in Gaza in two weeks, depending on weather conditions. But the Israel foreign ministry Saturday notified Finland that the boat will be stopped if it tried to enter Gaza's waters.


'Strong Condemnation'

Noor Oudeh, spokeswoman of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) told Xinhua that the PNA strongly condemned the Israeli interception of the Finnish boat which carried European activists, who wanted to go to Gaza to express solidarity and help end the Israeli siege imposed on the Gaza Strip.

"The Palestinian Authority always supports any solidarity with Gaza and opposes the illegal Israeli siege," said Oudeh.

The boat set sail from Sweden three months ago, having stopover in the ports of Norway, Spain, and Greece to pick up the activists and the aid to the Palestinians in Gaza.

Last week, Israel notified Finland that the boat will be stopped if it tried to enter Gaza's waters.

Fawzi Barhoum, Islamic Hamas movement's spokesman in Gaza, said in a statement that the Israeli attack on the Finnish boat and arresting the European activists "is clear piracy and a crime against humanity and against the Palestinian people".

"Israel is mounting its assaults on the Palestinians amid a complete international silence after the occupants tightened siege on the Gaza Strip," said Barhoum.

However, Israeli Radio quoted a high-ranking Israeli army source as saying that according to the UN resolutions, it is Israel's right to intercept any ship that violates the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip.

The source said that the Gaza Strip doesn't suffer from any humanitarian crisis, adding that Israel is allowing all kinds of food products and all the needs of people in Gaza through the legal crossing of Kerem Shalom on the borders between Gaza Strip and Israel.

Yousef Rizka, a Hamas official, warned that Israel may use "violence and terror to prevent the humanitarian aid from reaching Gaza". He said the international community must "stop the Israeli aggressive actions".

In 2008, several international ferries succeeded in docking at Gaza's fishing harbour, a year after Israel imposed a strict ground and naval blockade on Gaza to isolate Hamas.

However, following the three-week Operation Cast Lead between 2008 and 2009, Israel decided to ban all foreign ships from entering Gaza's waters.

In 2010, Israeli commandos intercepted a Turkish flotilla bound for Gaza and killed nine Pro-Palestinian Turks, tensing diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey. Following the standoff, Israel relaxed the overland closure, but kept the naval blockade tight.




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