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2 Jul, 2009 06:23

Activists vow to break Gaza blockade

Pro-Palestinian activists say they will continue to defy the blockade of Gaza, despite Israel seizing one of their boats carrying aid. The small vessel was said to be packed with medical and building supplies.

Two years ago, Hamas came to power in Gaza after bloody street battles with Fatah and, soon afterwards, Israel imposed its economic blockade.

Gaza port is less than 40 kilometers from Israel. On Monday, 20 peace activists set off from Cyprus to try and break the Israeli blockade. But just short of the shore, their ship was turned back.

“We are used to this kind of piracy from Israel. This is a failed attempt from Israel to stop international solidarity with Palestinians and with the people who live under siege in Gaza,” says Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas leader.

The activists come from Bahrain, Britain, and Jamaica and among them is Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire, who worked in Northern Ireland.

They claim Israeli warships surrounded their boat and threatened to open fire if they did not turn around.

Israel denies this, saying they sent radio messages that were ignored.

The protesters are now being questioned by Israeli authorities.

The ‘Spirit of Humanity’ boat is supposed to have been carrying three tonnes of medical and building supplies.

But Israeli officials have yet to find any. They say if – and when – they do, they’ll send them into Gaza by truck.

“The boat was not carrying humanitarian aid – it was part of their media PR operation. They tried to penetrate a forbidden zone and Gaza waters. This zone is under international agreement,” says Yigal Palmor, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman.

The Free Gaza Movement has already organized five similar expeditions.

Six months after the war between Israel and Hamas, tension is still running high. Since the ceasefire, more than 200 rockets and mortars have been fired into Israel.

Thus the Jewish state feels justified in maintaining its blockade.