Israel deports activists on ‘women’s boat’ for Gaza

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Jerusalem (AFP): Israel has deported all but one of a group of women activists who tried to break its decade-long blockade of the Gaza Strip by boat, the interior ministry said Friday.

A ministry spokeswoman said the last activist would leave the country later the same day.

Thirteen women, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland, were detained on Wednesday after their sailboat was stopped around 35 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza.

The boat was diverted to the Israeli port of Ashdod, about 30 kilometres (18 miles) north of the Palestinian territory, and the women detained before being deported.

“All the boat’s passengers have left Israel except a woman who will fly to Oslo this afternoon,” interior ministry spokeswoman Sabin Haddad told AFP.

Dubbed “Women’s Boat to Gaza”, the boat was part of the wider Freedom Flotilla Coalition consisting of pro-Palestinian activists who regularly defy Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

An operation in 2010 turned to bloodshed when Israeli commandos killed 10 Turkish activists in a raid on a flotilla, leading to a six-year break in diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008.

Israel maintains a blockade to keep material it believes could be used for military purposes from entering the coastal enclave.

UN officials have called for the blockade to be lifted, saying conditions are deteriorating in impoverished Gaza.

 

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