Hamas calls for further ships to be sent to Gaza
The Islamist Hamas movement called Thursday for activists to send more ships destined for the Gaza Strip, in order to lift the Israeli siege of the coastal salient, DPA reported.
The call came in a issued in a leaflet sent to reporters a day after a Libyan-backed ship the Amalthea, sailed for the Egyptian port of el-Arish, after deciding not to risk attempting to breech the blockade, which is enforced from the sea by the Israeli navy.
It echoed remarks made Wednesday by Hamas leader Ismail Haniya, who told reporters that his organization did not want to see the blockade eased, but cancelled.
"What we are looking for is to end it completely by sending more Arab and Islamic flotillas and convoys, by activating the prosecution of Israel and showing the ongoing suffering of the population in the Gaza Strip," he said.
The Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, which sponsored the voyage of the Amalthea, decided late Wednesday to divert the ship to al-Arish, about 70 kilometres from Gaza city, after the vessel spent the day shadowed by Israel navy boats determined to prevent it from reaching the Strip.
In its leaflet Thursday, Hamas said preventing the ship from reaching the Strip was "clear Israeli piracy and terrorism, practiced in international territorial waters in front of the international community."
Israel placed the Gaza Strip under blockade four years ago, after militants from the salient staged a cross-border raid and snatched an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit who is still being held captive in the enclave.
An attempt six weeks ago by a six-ship flotilla to break the blockade saw Israeli commandos battling with activists on board one of the ships, killing nine.
The incident led to increasing calls on Israel to end the blockade.
While Israel did relax the siege last month and now allows in most civilian goods, the naval blockade remains in place, as Israel says it will now allow weapons, or materials used in weapons production, to enter the Gaza Strip, where they could be used by Hamas against Israeli targets.