Thursday, July 7, 2011

French Boat to Gaza Blocked in Crete

Greek coast guard intercepts French Gaza-bound boat
Jul 7, 2011, 12:37 GMT

Athens - The Greek coast guard on Thursday intercepted a French boat carrying pro-Palestinian activists on the southern island of Crete, the third aid ship in the last week to be prevented from sailing to Gaza, currently being blockaded by Israel.

Coast guard officials located the Dignite Al-Kanama as it was refuelling in a tiny uncontrolled port on Crete and was towed to the island's larger port of Sitia for checks, activist Manolis Pleonis told the German Press Agency dpa.

The boat, with about a dozen activists on board, had sailed from Corsica in late June.

'The crew of the French boat is waiting for clearance from the Greek coast guard to leave - logically since they were given clearance from the French government to head to Gaza there is not much that the Greek authorities can do,' he said.

Greek authorities have also banned a 10-vessel flotilla, loaded with aid and carrying several hundred pro-Palestinian activists from 22 countries - including Greece, Canada, France, Spain and the United States - from sailing towards Gaza.

Greece's coast guard has already intercepted two ships from the flotilla and is closely monitoring the others which are moored in ports across Greece.

The flotilla includes two cargo vessels - carrying almost 3,000 tons of aid, medicine, a fully equipped ambulance and cement to Gaza.

The Greek government, citing security concerns after a raid by Israeli forces on a similar flotilla last year left nine activists dead, has offered to deliver the humanitarian aid itself.

Israel imposed its blockade on the Strip in 2006, after Palestinian militants launched a cross-border raid in which an Israeli soldier was snatched. The blockade was tightened a year later after the Islamist Hamas movement seized full control of the salient.

Although Israel has eased the blockade, the naval embargo remains in force. Exports from the enclave are still banned.

Activists taking part in the international flotilla say they will still try to leave Greek ports despite repeated delays which activists blame on Israeli sabotage.

The activists have rejected Israeli claims that they are carrying dangerous materials or that they plan to use violence against Israeli soldiers trying to stop them at sea.

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