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Palestinian Aid Flotilla Getting Set to Approach Gaza


Pro-Palestinian activists are pressing on with plans to send a convoy of ships to the Gaza Strip Sunday despite technical delays and warnings from the Israeli navy.

The flotilla, carrying 10,000 tons of humanitarian supplies and hundreds of activists, was off the coast of Cyprus Saturday preparing to depart for the port of Ashdod.

Organizers say technical problems have delayed the aid mission and reduced the flotilla from eight ships to five.

Israel's deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, reiterated Saturday that the military will not allow the ships to reach the Palestinian territory. He has called the aid mission a provocation.

The activists are seeking to circumvent a blockade on the Gaza Strip. Israel and Egypt put the blockade in place in 2007 after the Islamic militant group Hamas took control of the territory.

The Hamas leader in Gaza, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, welcomed the expected shipment and said the mission would be a victory for the territory.

The aid convoy left from Mediterranean ports in Europe and Turkey during the past week. Activists on board include human-rights workers and lawmakers from a several European countries.

Meanwhile, Palestinian medics say a tunnel collapse has killed six Palestinians after a gas canister that was being smuggled into Gaza exploded in the tunnel.

Palestinians are thought to use tunnels under the Egyptian border to sneak weapons and goods into the Palestinian enclave.

Also Saturday, witnesses say the Israeli military fired six missiles at targets in the Gaza Strip. Five targeted Gaza's south near the border with Egypt, while a sixth struck east of Gaza City.

Witnesses say no one was hurt in the attacks.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

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