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Greece Intercepts Pro-Palestinian Activist Boat


Supporters of a Gaza-bound flotilla wave a Palestinian flag as one of the flotilla's boats "Juliano" departs from Perama port near Athens for a town on the southern Greek coast, July 6, 2011

Supporters of a Gaza-bound flotilla wave a Palestinian flag as one of the flotilla's boats "Juliano" departs from Perama port near Athens for a town on the southern Greek coast, July 6, 2011

The Greek coast guard has intercepted the only boat of a planned flotilla of pro-Palestinian activists that had eluded detection.

Greek officials stopped the Dignite / al Karama Thursday as it was refueling near the island of Crete and towed it to a nearby port. The small French boat was carrying about 10 activists.

Flotilla organizers had planned to send about a dozen vessels from Greece to Gaza in defiance of an Israeli sea blockade.

However, Greek officials imposed a ban on Gaza-bound ships. They said they feared for the safety of activists after nine activists were killed during a confrontation with Israeli commandos last year.

Israel says it imposed the blockade in 2007 to stop Hamas militants in Gaza from obtaining weapons.

Meanwhile, Israel has deployed hundreds of police officers to its international airport near Tel Aviv in anticipation of the arrival of large groups of pro-Palestinian activists.

The activists, who plan to fly in over the next few days, say they are on a peaceful mission to show support for Palestinians. The activists say they hope their mission will draw attention to Israeli policies that often bar foreigners who have ties to the Palestinians.

Israel media reported on Thursday that Israeli authorities have identified hundreds of names of probable participants and that a list has been turned over to air carriers in Europe. The Associated Press reports the German airline Lufthansa will not allow people on the list to board flights to Israel.

Israeli officials believe the fly-in was organized after the aid flotilla stalled in Greece. But activists deny that, saying it is a separate initiative that focuses on the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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