French Yacht Plans Breach of Gaza Blockade

Posted July 18th, 2011 at 2:35 pm (UTC-5)
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Pro-Palestinian activists say a French yacht carrying members of their movement will try to breach Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday.

The activists say the Dignity al-Karama left Greek waters on Sunday and was traveling slowly in international waters toward Gaza with 16 people on board, mostly French citizens.

It is the only vessel remaining from a flotilla that pro-Palestinian activists had hoped to launch from Greece last month.

Greece banned the vessels from leaving its ports to confront Israeli naval forces enforcing the Gaza blockade. It is not clear how the French yacht managed to evade the Greek ban.

Flotilla organizers accused Israeli authorities of sabotaging two of the vessels, a charge Israel denies.

The activists say Israel's naval blockade of Gaza is an illegal act of collective punishment against the more than one million Palestinian residents of the impoverished territory.

Israeli officials have vowed to maintain the blockade to prevent arms from reaching Hamas militants who run Gaza. Israel also says it is meeting the humanitarian needs of Gazans by allowing daily deliveries of aid, fuel and consumer goods across its land border with the territory.

Israel's parliament on Monday imposed additional sanctions on an Israeli Arab lawmaker who sailed with an international flotilla that challenged the Gaza blockade last year.

The parliament's ethics committee voted to suspend Hanin Zoabi for two weeks for participating in an action that it says threatened Israel's national security. The assembly already had stripped her of some diplomatic privileges last year in response to the incident.