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Activists: Israeli Ships Intercept Pro-Palestinian Flotilla


Activists in front of Palestinian, Turkish flags show support for 27 civilians from various countries attempting to reach the Gaza Strip by boat, sea port of Gaza City, Nov. 4, 2011.

Activists in front of Palestinian, Turkish flags show support for 27 civilians from various countries attempting to reach the Gaza Strip by boat, sea port of Gaza City, Nov. 4, 2011.

Timeline: Gaza Blockade

  • June 2007: Hamas takes control of Gaza from the Fatah movement. Israel tightens restrictions on the flow of goods into the territory, citing concerns about Hamas militants gaining access to arms. Egypt seals its border crossing.

  • January 2008: Thousands of Palestinians stream into Egypt after Hamas militants blow up a section of the border.

  • May 2010: Israeli commandos storm a Turkish-led aid flotilla. Nine pro-Palestinian activists are killed.

  • June 2010: Israel eases its land blockade of Gaza in response to international outrage over deadly raid.

  • June 2010: Egypt temporarily opens its Rafah crossing to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.

  • May 2011: Egypt's new military rulers announce re-opening of Rafah crossing in effort to "end the divisions among Palestinians and finalize their national reconciliation." The decision, in general, allows Palestinians with passports to cross.

  • November 2011: Vessels carrying 27 pro-Palestinian activists sail from Turkey, face confrontation with Israeli navy ships

Pro-Palestinian activists say that they have lost contact with their two ships trying to break Israel's blockade of Gaza, after Israeli navy vessels reportedly intercepted them in international waters.

A spokeswoman for the activists told VOA Friday that two Israeli ships approached the boats Friday evening local time. The Israelis then asked the flotilla for its destination.

The group's spokeswoman said it lost contact with the ships some 10 minutes later.

The 27 activists from countries including the United States, Canada, and Ireland set sail from Turkey on Wednesday. They say their goal is to deliver medical aid directly to Palestinians in Gaza, in defiance of Israel's blockade.

Israeli military officials have said they are prepared to intercept the two boats.

Israel imposed a naval blockade on the Hamas-ruled territory in 2007 in what officials say is a bid to keep weapons from reaching militants in Gaza.

On Thursday, the U.S. State Department renewed a call for Americans to avoid participating in the flotilla, saying they could face legal consequences. At least two Americans are on board.

Last year, nine activists were killed after Israeli commandos stormed a Turkish-led aid flotilla headed for Gaza. The confrontation caused a deterioration in relations between Turkey and Israel.

In July, pro-Palestinian activists launched an unsuccessful attempt to reach the Palestinian territory.

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