Israel vows to block Gaza-bound ship


ISRAEL HAS vowed to block a ship carrying European pro-Palestinian activists from reaching Gaza, in the latest effort to break Israel’s maritime blockade on the Hamas-ruled territory.

Organisers issued a communique saying they had received clearance in La Spezia, Italy, to set sail, and the SV Estelle, sailing under a Finnish flag, will reach Gaza in about two weeks. However, Israeli officials said the navy was on alert and the vessel would be intercepted.

“This is the same old, same old,” Israeli foreign ministry spokeswoman Ilana Stein said. “The organisers know that they are not going to be allowed to reach Gaza, and are just trying to make noise.”

SV Estelle set sail in June from Sweden and has stopped at a number of European ports trying to drum up support.

About 17 activists, mainly Swedes, are expected to join the attempt to reach Gaza.

The ship is carrying humanitarian aid and equipment for the “Gaza Ark” project – a Canadian initiative that hopes to build a Gaza-made ship to transport goods from the coastal strip.

Last month 78 Irish parliamentarians, including TDs, MEPs, Senators, MLAs and MPs from both North and South, signed a statement in support of the ship and condemning Israel’s maritime blockade.

Separately, a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) claims Palestinians in Gaza face serious abuses in the Hamas criminal justice system, including arbitrary arrest, incommunicado detention, torture and unfair trials.

The 43-page report, issued yesterday, said Hamas had executed at least three men convicted on the basis of “confessions”, apparently obtained under torture.

“After five years of Hamas rule in Gaza, its criminal justice system reeks of injustice, routinely violates detainees’ rights, and grants impunity to abusive security services,” said Joe Stork, HRW’s deputy Middle East director.