Israeli navy blocks aid to Gaza

December 1, 2008 12:00 am

, GAZA CITY, December 1 – Israeli navy ships on Monday prevented a Libyan cargo ship from reaching the blockaded Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, a Palestinian official said.

The ship, laden with 3,000 tonnes of goods, was stopped several kilometres (miles) off Gaza’s shores and ordered to return to the port of El-Arish in Egypt, said MP Jamal Khodary, who heads an international campaign against the Israeli blockade.

The Israeli army declined comment on the incident and foreign ministry spokesman Yossie Levy told AFP: "We are holding talks on the issue."

Israel sealed off its crossings with Gaza, the impoverished territory’s main gateway for food and humanitarian aid, as well as its maritime borders after the Islamist Hamas movement violently seized power there in June 2007.

The sanctions were again tightened in recent weeks amid renewed tensions and tit-for-tat exchanges of fire that threatened to destroy an Egyptian-brokered June 19 ceasefire.

The Libyan boat is the first such effort to break the blockade by an Arab state, although European and other pro-Palestinian activists have since August made three trips from Cyprus without being intercepted by the Israeli navy.

The Libyan consignment consists of 1,200 tonnes of rice, 750 tonnes of milk, 500 tonnes of oil, 500 tonnes of flour and 100 tonnes of medicine, said the Libyan Fund for Aid and Development in Africa, which chartered the vessel.


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