Israeli Navy Stops Gaza Boat Attempting to Breach Naval Blockade

The Israel Navy stopped on Tuesday a boat with eight Palestinian activists on board who had been injured at the Gaza border fence in recent weeks. The activists left the Gaza port for Cyprus in an attempt to break the Israeli naval blockade.

According to Palestinian reports, Israeli naval vessels surrounded the boat when it was about 6 miles from the shore. The activists maintained contact with port controllers on the shore until they were 12 miles out, when communications were cut off.

The Israeli military said that the "vessel was stopped without incident,” and that the boat would be examined and towed to the naval base at Ashdod. The Israel Defense Forces spokesman also said that army medical personnel were treating the injured on board.

“This is the second time in the last two months that the terror organization Hamas has initiated an attempt at provocation on sea, taking advantage of injured and handicapped people and paying residents of Gaza to take part in this type of activity,” the statement said. “The naval blockade is a necessary and legal security blockade, which has been recognized repeatedly by the world and the United Nations, for the protection of the State of Israel and its marine borders, protecting [it] against terror and arms smuggling,” the statement said, adding that the navy would continue to enforce the blockade.

>> Israel tightening Gaza blockade – but ball is in Hamas’ court | Analysis ■ ‘Israel’s closure of Gaza crossing is like shooting a dying man’

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Meanwhile, a number of people involved in launching airborne firebombs from Gaza into Israel said they would continue to do so in response to the Israeli decision, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Monday, to close the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing. A statement issued by the activists said: “Beefing up the closure is no solution. Israel admits its failure in dealing with the balloons and the kites. This [the closure] is a means of pressuring the youth who are making the kites, but this will fail and we will continue with our actions.”

On Tuesday afternoon representatives of the various Palestinian factions met at the office of senior Islamic Jihad official Khaled Batash to discuss the Israeli decision to close the Kerem Shalom crossing. A statement issued after the meeting said: “The international community and the United Nations must intervene immediately to stop the punitive steps Israel is taking against the Gaza Strip.”

UN Middle East Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov urged Israel and the Palestinians “step back from confrontation.” In a statement issued Tuesday, the UN envoy said: “I am concerned by the consequences of Israel’s decision to temporarily suspend imports and exports with the exception of basic humanitarian supplies through the Kerem Shalom crossing. Humanitarian assistance is no substitute for commerce and trade. I urge the authorities to reverse this decision.”

Mladenov appealed to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to “do their part by maintaining calm, stopping incendiary kites and preventing provocations.” The United Nations, Mladenov said, “is continuing its engagement with Israeli and Palestinian counterparts, as well as regional and international partners, to reduce tensions, support intra-Palestinian reconciliation and resolve all humanitarian challenges. This latest development must not divert us from this urgent course of action.”