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IDF intercepts Gaza boat trying to escape the blockade

Carrying 17 people, including university students, cancer patients, and protesters wounded by Israeli forces during the Great Return March, the Gaza boat was headed towards Cyprus before IDF gunboats intercepted it.

By Meron Rapoport, Mohammed Zaanoun, and +972 Magazine Staff

The Gaza "Freedom Boat" in port in Gaza, before attempting to break Israel's naval blockade. (Mohammed Zaanoun/Activestills.org)

The Gaza “Freedom Boat” in port in Gaza, before attempting to break Israel’s naval blockade. May 29, 2018. (Mohammed Zaanoun/Activestills.org)

Israeli gunships intercepted a Palestinian boat attempting to break Israel’s naval siege of the Gaza Strip Tuesday afternoon. The attempt to break the blockade comes two weeks after Israeli soldiers killed at least 60 Palestinian protesters and wounded thousands of others at the Gaza-Israel separation barrier on Gaza’s eastern boundary.

The boat was headed to Limassol, Cyprus, and was part of a small flotilla comprised of three boats in total. The two other boats turned back and did not breach the naval blockade line enforced by the IDF. The IDF does not allow Palestinians to venture more than nine miles off the coast of the Gaza Strip.

The boat that the IDF intercepted was carrying 17 people. Those on board were mainly university students, but also included cancer patients and protesters wounded during the Return March seeking medical care outside of the besieged Gaza Strip, flotilla participants said.

“We are two university graduates, we lost hope of finding work in Gaza. Life in Gaza is impossible. We want a secure future. We are leaving for the sake of freedom,” flotilla participants Shadi al Nakleh, 28, and Ihab abu Armaneh, 29, told +972 correspondent Mohammed Zaanoun.

“We have no connection to any political party in Palestine,” the participants added. “We are sailing peacefully, without any weapons. Our message to the world is that we want peace — our journey is nonviolent.”

Asked about the risks their journey could entail, the participants responded, “We believe we will arrive in peace, but there are clear dangers: attack, arrest, the sinking the ship.”

“But the most important thing is that we will get their peacefully,” they stressed. “All other messages have failed.”

“Shadi told me that he wanted to leave, that he wanted to find work,” said Shadi’s mother. “He made his decision — what can I do? May God protect him from danger.”

A woman bids farewell to a Gaza freedom boat participant. May 29, 2018. (Mohammed Zaanoun/Activestills.org)

A woman bids farewell to a Gaza freedom boat participant. May 29, 2018. (Mohammed Zaanoun/Activestills.org)

After Israeli naval forces intercepted the boat, the IDF spokesperson announced that the boat would be towed to a naval base in Ashdod and the passengers returned to Gaza.

The interception of the Cyprus-bound boat comes just as another Freedom Flotilla, which departed the Norwegian port of Bergen on April 30, is on its way to Gaza. It is also nearly eight years to the day since Israeli commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara, part of the 2010 Gaza flotilla, and killed 10 Turkish activists.

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Under the Oslo Accords, which created the system according to which the Israeli military rules Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, Israel agreed to allow Palestinian boats, and in particular fisherman, to operate freely in a zone extending 20 nautical miles off the Gaza coast.

The IDF, however, has not abided by that commitment for the past decade. Israeli authorities first shrunk the zone to 10 nautical miles, then three nautical miles. As part of a cease-fire agreement with Hamas after the 2014 Gaza war, however, Israel agreed to expand the zone to six nautical miles.

The size of the permitted fishing zone changes at the whim of Israeli military commanders and politicians, who have in the past openly discussed how they use it as collective punishment against civilians in response to rocket fire from armed groups. Sometimes Israeli naval forces simply announce via loudspeakers that they are reducing the size of the zone on a given day.

Israel’s decade-old siege on the Gaza Strip, reinforced by Egypt, is enforced through a military blockade on Gaza’s land and sea borders, full control of the Strip’s airspace and the destruction of its only airport. Despite the fact that Israel pulled its troops out of Gaza in 2005 the army still controls the Strip’s currency (the new Israeli shekel), the population registry, large parts of the electricity and water grids, all imports and exports, and decides who may enter and exit through the only regularly open passenger border crossing.

The IDF also controls movement inside the Gaza Strip. Israeli troops maintain a no-go zone several hundred meters from the Gaza-Israel separation barrier — the site of the 45-day-long Gaza Return March protests during which Israeli forces killed over 100 Palestinian demonstrators and wounded tens of thousands with live ammunition.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      Gaza terrorists fired 20 shells at Israel, one of which reached a kindergarten. You do not even mention this trap. You have sided with the enemy. What a shame.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @Itshak: from the Brookings Institute (2010): https://www.brookings.edu/articles/how-to-handle-hamas/

        If Hamas cannot be uprooted, can it be calmed enough to not disrupt peace talks? Maybe — and the chance is worth pursuing. Although often depicted as fanatical, Hamas has shown itself to be pragmatic in practice, although rarely in rhetoric. It cuts deals with rivals, negotiates indirectly with Israel via the Egyptians, and otherwise demonstrates that unlike, say, al Qaeda, it is capable of compromise. Indeed, al Qaeda often blasts Hamas for selling out. Hamas has at times declared and adhered to cease-fires lasting months, and some leaders have speculated that a truce lasting years is possible. And although Hamas has refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist, its leaders have also said they would accept the UN-demarcated 1967 borders between Israel and the Palestinian areas as a starting point for a Palestinian state.

        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Read the article, Halevy. You are off topic and not even close to coherent here.
        It is the end of the terroristic siege of Gaza by Israel (yes, shooting defenseless fishermen with navy patrol boat guns, or cold-bloodedly shooting defenseless “protest instigators,” is terror, pure and simple)–an end which this flotilla was peacefully seeking–that would deflate the extremists.
        But the GOI does not want that peaceful resolution. It does not want to deflate the extremists–on either side. It does not want to deflate you. It wants to stoke you. The GOI-IDF-Settler Complex finds Hamas a quite comfortable adversary, just the foil it wants to support its propaganda, stoke useful fools, and continue its occupation.
        No one has “sided with the enemy.” You are using neo-fascist vilification techniques, calling people who are not sufficiently toeing the militaristic government line “traitors.”

        Reply to Comment
        • Itshak Gordin Halevy

          The United States have called for an emergency meeting of the Security Council to discuss the anti-Israeli aggression by Hamas terrorists. Recall also that 25,000 hectares were burned in Israel by the sending of incendiary devices by the Hamas regime considered as terrorist by most Western countries.

          Reply to Comment
    2. Richard Lightbown

      “It is also nearly eight years to the day since Israeli commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara, part of the 2010 Gaza flotilla, and killed 10 Turkish activists.”

      Please! Nine Turks and one U.S. citizen (he didn’t even have dual nationality). This is important, particularly since no U.S. president has dared to pursue this matter with the terrorist state responsible. Specifically for the most basic of human rights (the right to life) of this fellow U.S. citizen (Furkan Dogan) who was repeatedly shot and killed in international waters by Israeli terrorists while doing nothing more than filming events from the top deck of the Mavi Marmara.

      Tomorrow (31 May) will be the eighth anniversary of this murder, along with the murder of nine Turks, serious gunshot injuries to at least 52 people and the abduction, illegal detention and gross maltreatment of around 700 people, with the theft of thousands of cash dollars, personal credit cards, photographic and electronic goods, along with the illegal seizure and vandalism of six marine vessels. And let us not forget that this incident is still the subject of legal proceedings at the International Criminal Court, despite the best efforts of the bent Prosecutor to bury it.

      Reply to Comment

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