Israel allows activists to sail into Gaza Strip
ISRAEL yesterday allowed a pro-Palestinian activist group to sail two boats carrying humanitarian supplies into the Gaza Strip, after earlier hinting it would block the shipment from reaching the coastal territory.
The boats with 46 activists on board – including Lauren Booth, half-sister of Middle East envoy Tony Blair's wife Cherie – were defying Israel's year-long blockade of the territory.
The delivery had been in question since the activists with the US-based Free Gaza Movement left Cyprus on Friday. Israeli officials initially deemed the mission an unacceptable provocation, and the crew on the boats yesterday accused Israel of sabotaging their communications equipment.
But foreign ministry spokesman Arye Mekel said Israel had decided to let the boats into Gaza "to avoid the media provocation in the high seas as they (the organisers] planned". He had no information on whether Israel had harmed the boats' communications.
The boats were carrying symbolic aid – hearing aids and thousands of balloons.
Israel has led a boycott of Gaza since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power of the territory in June last year. Israel closed its trade crossings with the territory, while neighbouring Egypt sealed its passenger crossing, confining Gaza's 1.4 million residents. Israel has allowed little more than basic humanitarian supplies into Gaza, causing shortages of fuel, electricity and basic goods.
It was the first time foreign activists have broken the blockade. However, it remained unclear how the foreigners will leave the territory as Israel controls all movement to and from the coastal strip.
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