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Anniversary flotilla due to sail for Gaza

May 31, 2011 - TURKEY

Pro-Palestinian activists from 25 countries plan to sail some 15 ships to the Gaza Strip on the anniversary of Israel's deadly raid on a 2010 flotilla, when Israeli naval commandos shot dead nine activists on the Turkish Mavi Marmara passenger ship. As then, the organizers hope to break Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip to deliver aid. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called on the Europe and United Nations to stop the flotilla from setting sail.

Israel stopped the 2010 flotilla in international waters after organizers declared their intention of breaking the blockade. Each side has a different version of the deadly raid. The activists say it was unprovoked. The Israeli ministry of foreign affairs said the commandos were attacked with guns, knives and clubs when they boarded the ships, after having given repeated warnings. The controversial raid drew international condemnation. As reported by AFP, Netanyahu recently told European Union diplomats at a luncheon in Jerusalem that stopping the flotilla from heading to the coastal territory was a "common interest" for Israel and Europe. Netanyahu has also called on UN chief Ban Ki-moon to stop the flotilla, organized by the Cyprus-headquartered international Free Gaza movement and other pro-Palestinian organizations. Israel imposed its blockade on Gaza in June 2006 after militants captured conscript Gilad Shalit in a deadly cross-border raid from the territory, where he remains in captivity. Israeli restrictions on imports and exports were tightened a year later when Hamas seized power in the territory of 1.5 million people, ousting loyalists of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. Israel maintains tight restrictions on items it says could be used by Hamas, including some building materials, and continues to control Gaza's airspace and sea access. (WRITTEN Apr 2011)

Gaza flotilla deaths: pressure builds on Israel for full inquiry (Guardian 2 Jun 2010)

New flotilla 'must be stopped' - Israeli PM (AFP/The Age 11 Apr 2011)

Date written/update: 2011-05-31