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Israeli Police Block Aid Boat Bound for Blockaded Gaza


An attempt by Israeli Arabs to break Israel's blockade on the Gaza Strip has been stopped. Robert Berger reports from the VOA bureau in Jerusalem.

Israeli Arab parliamentarians and activists planned to sail to Gaza to bring in aid supplies, but were blocked by police. The boat's owner was contacted by police officers who warned him that sailing to Gaza would be a violation of Israeli law.

Israelis are not allowed to enter Gaza, which is ruled by the Islamic militant group Hamas, because of security concerns. Police also intercepted a truckload of goods bound for the boat.

Dozens of Israeli Arabs had planned to sail on the boat with food, medicine, toys and sweets for the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha - the Feast of the Sacrifice.

One of the passengers, Israeli Arab legislator Ahmed Tibi said it was a humanitarian mission.

Tibi told Israel Radio that the Israeli blockade on Gaza is illegal and inhuman, and Palestinians there have the right to live a normal life.

International activists have sailed to Gaza three times in recent months from Cyprus and the Israeli navy turned a blind eye. Sunday's attempt was the first by an Israeli boat to defy the blockade.

Israel imposed the blockade in response to Palestinian rocket and mortar attacks, which have resumed during the past month, despite a cease-fire reached in June.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who is running for prime minister in Israeli elections set for February, said the attacks from Gaza are intolerable.

"Whoever says this is a cease-fire is not in reality," Livni told reporters at the weekly Cabinet meeting. She threatened military action in Gaza to end the rocket and mortar fire.


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