New Palestinian flotilla aims to break Israeli blockade of Gaza

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published
The Palestine, part of the Ship to Gaza, with five persons onboard leave Stockholm with destination Gaza to try to break Israel's blockade on Gaza on May 15, 2018. (AFP Photo)
The Palestine, part of the Ship to Gaza, with five persons onboard leave Stockholm with destination Gaza to try to break Israel's blockade on Gaza on May 15, 2018. (AFP Photo)

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip will try to breach Israel's blockade by boat this week in a fresh challenge to Israeli forces following weeks of deadly protests and clashes, organizers said Sunday.

Few details were given on the plans, but organizers said the boat would depart on Tuesday at 11:00 am (0800 GMT) carrying patients needing medical care, students and job-seeking university graduates.

The boat also brings "dreams of our people and their aspirations for freedom", organizer Salah Abdul-Ati said in a press conference at Gaza City's port on the Mediterranean coast.

He called on the United Nations and other international bodies to protect the boat leaving from the enclave run by Palestinian resistance movement Hamas.

Organizers said it would be the first attempt of its kind from the Gaza Strip.

Its intended destination was not announced.

Boats off the strip are generally limited to six nautical miles offshore, and the Israeli navy regularly fires warning shots at Palestinians who breach it.

The boat would likely face long odds at making it past Israeli forces.

Meanwhile, Israel has started building an ocean barrier to prevent Palestinians leaving Gaza by sea, the Defence Ministry said on Sunday.

The ocean barrier, due to be finished by the end of this year, is in addition to a subterranean land barrier Israel is constructing to prevent tunneling from the blockaded coastal enclave into Israel.

Israel already maintains a naval blockade on the Gaza Strip.

"This is the only barrier of its kind in the world, which will effectively block the possibility of infiltrating into Israel by sea," Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a statement.

The plan comes ahead of the eighth anniversary on Thursday of a deadly raid on Turkish-registered Mavi Marmara — part of a flotilla of six vessels seeking to break Israel's blockade and enter Gaza.

Nine Turkish activists were killed in the operation, and another died in hospital in 2014.

Mass protests and clashes began on March 30 along the fence separating Gaza and Israel.

At least 119 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the protests and clashes broke out, according to figures from Gaza's health ministry.

No Israelis have been killed during that time.

Low-level demonstrations along the border have continued since protests peaked on May 14, when at least 61 Palestinians were killed as tens of thousands of Gazans protested the U.S. transfer of its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Israel says its actions are necessary to defend the border and stop mass incursions into its territory.

The Gaza Strip has been under Israeli blockade for more than a decade.

Egypt has also kept its border with Gaza largely closed in recent years, but has opened it for the entire Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter