Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Israel says will block activists from reaching Gaza

As left-wing 'Free Gaza' movement prepares to 'break' naval blockade once more, Foreign Ministry warns Israel 'will not allow a repeat performance'
Yael Levy

The first time they set sail for the Gaza Strip, Israel chose not to interfere in the voyage of foreign left-wing activists.

On Tuesday, however, as members of the 'Free Gaza' movement set sail from Cyprus towards the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory once more, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs appears to have elected a different tone "Based on the poor experience of the previous time, Israel has decided not to allow the entry of the vessel that has so pretentiously called itself a 'humanitarian aid boat,' Foreign Ministry spokesman Yossi Levi told Ynet.

"There is absolutely no connection between humanitarian aid and these provocateurs.

"The previous campaign excelled mostly at peddling slogans. They remained in Gaza for a period of time, taking advantage of their stay to provoke IDF ships by staging 'sorties' and sneaking up to them. They were just trying to extort international attention at the expense of Israel's reputation," said Levi.

The ministry declined to elaborate on how the boats would be stopped. "Last time they carried more festive banners than actual humanitarian aid, and abused the Israeli gesture to allow them through, we won't be seeing a repeat performance."

'We're determined to reach Gaza'

Twenty seven people from 13 countries sailed from Larnaca, pledging to reach the shores of the Palestinian territory by Wednesday.

"We are determined to get to Gaza," said Mairead Corrigan Maguire, a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for her work in Northern Ireland. "The Gaza people have been cut off from the whole world for two years, its the largest prison in the world."

The International Committee of the Red Cross said last week that virtually no medical supplies were reaching the Gaza Strip, putting the lives of several hundred patients at risk.

The ICRC blamed the crisis on lack of cooperation between Palestinian authorities in the West Bank, where President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction holds sway, and Hamas, which seized control of Gaza
in June 2007.

"We got a list of zero stock medicines in Gaza, like baby formula, paracetamol, anti-histamine tablets," said Palestinian Briton Ibrahim Hamami, 44, a family physician from Buckinghamshire who was making the trip.

"There are basic things we can get over the counter in Europe but they do not have a single pill." It was the second attempt by the "Free Gaza" movement to sail to Gaza, after 46 activists on two boats sailed there without interference from Israeli authorities in August.

Reuters contributed to this report

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