Israeli warships have stopped a boat from a humanitarian flotilla set off from the Gaza strip to Cyprus to break the regime’s 11-year siege on the coastal enclave.
Israel’s military said in a statement one boat with eight people on board was prevented from breaching the naval blockade on Tuesday, adding that Israel will continue to enforce the blockade.
“After the boat and the Palestinians on board are searched, the boat will be towed to the Israeli navy base in Ashdod,” the statement said.
“The (military) assigned medical personnel to treat Palestinians on board requiring medical assistance,” it added.
Earlier, organizers of the flotilla, which set off earlier on Tuesday, said contact with one boat was lost after 10 nautical miles. Israel’s blockade restricts Gazan vessels to up to six nautical miles off the coastal sliver.
The status of the remaining boats is still unclear.
On May 29, another flotilla, composed of a main boat accompanied by smaller boats, set sail from waters off Gaza, carrying Palestinian patients — mostly those injured during the Tel Aviv regime’s military crackdown on weeks-long rallies against Israel’s occupation.
The flotilla was swiftly intercepted and seized by Israeli navy forces. The 17 Palestinian activists aboard the vessels were also taken into custody.
Separately, a “Freedom Flotilla Coalition” has dispatched a ship to Gaza, which similarly seeks to break the Israeli siege. It has traveled thousands of miles from Scandinavian ports and was reported to be near Corsica on July 8.
Gaza has been under an Israeli siege since June 2007, which has caused a sharp decline in living standards as well as unprecedented unemployment and poverty. According to the UN, the stringent conditions threaten to render the territory uninhabitable by 2020.
On Monday, Israel blocked its only goods crossing with the Gaza Strip
Egypt closely cooperates with Israel in maintaining the siege by keeping Rafah, Gaza’s only land terminal that bypasses Israel, closed most of the time. The situation has seriously affected the Palestinian patients’ chances of seeking treatment abroad.
The Palestinian National Organizing Committee of the Great Return March has also confirmed the trip.
The committee has been organizing the Return rallies on the Gaza Strip’s border since March 30. At least 135 Palestinians, including 14 children, have been killed during the protests, which uphold Palestinians’ right to return to their homes in the lands occupied by Israel.
On May 31, 2010, Israeli commandos attacked one such flotilla, which was trying to take humanitarian aid to Gaza, in international waters in the Mediterranean, killing 10 activists onboard.