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Aid Flotilla Heads to Gaza to Break Israel's Blockade

Activists will be brought to an Israeli detention center on shore and given a choice of deportation or jail

Robert Berger

A confrontation is looming between the Israeli navy and international activists on the high seas near the Palestinian-ruled Gaza Strip.  

A flotilla of six ships, carrying more than 600 international activists and 10,000 tons of supplies, is heading toward Gaza. Organizer Greta Berlin of the Free Gaza Movement says the aim is to break Israel's crippling blockade.

"We view the Israeli blockade of Gaza as completely illegal," Berlin said. "Israel has no right to completely shut off a million and a half people in an open-air concentration camp."  

Israel imposed the blockade on Gaza three years ago, after the Palestinian militant group Hamas seized control of the territory.  The aim of the sanctions is to isolate and weaken Hamas, which Israel regards as a terrorist group.

The international activists have rejected an Israeli offer to unload their humanitarian aid at a port in Israel, from where it would be transferred to Gaza via international organizations.

Therefore, Israeli government spokesman Yigal Palmor says the flotilla will be intercepted by the navy.

"The choice is theirs," Palmor said. "If they choose to ignore this offer and to clash, to riot as it were on high sea, then they will have to bear the consequences of this behavior."  

The activists will be brought to an Israeli detention center on shore and given a choice of deportation or jail.

But Israel fears a public relations fiasco, and that pictures of naval commandoes confronting unarmed civilians will harm its already tarnished image. So the military is jamming the communications of the flotilla.

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