Cyprus regrets Israeli blockage of aid boat for Gaza
Cyprus Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou expressed regret over the Israeli navy's action to force back a boat carrying medical aid for Gaza early Tuesday, xinhua reported.
The Dignity boat chartered by the U.S.-based Free Gaza Movement sailed to Gaza from Cyprus on Monday evening, with doctors, volunteers and reporters on board.
But it was rammed by an Israeli patrol vessel on international waters near Gaza early Tuesday morning, according to reporters on the boat.
A statement of Cyprus' Foreign Ministry said it has been closely monitoring the situation and taking all necessary steps to ensure the safety of those on board.
"To this end, the ministry is in contact with the ministries of foreign affairs of Israel and Lebanon and other authorities concerned, as well as with members of the team of volunteers," it added.
The Dignity had to arrive at Tyre port in south Lebanon in the afternoon. All the 16 people on board were reportedly well.
Three Cypriots, including parliament member Eleni Theoharous, have flown back to Cyprus Tuesday evening.
Speaking upon her return, Theoharous accused Israel of "violating international law and committing a crime against humanity."
However, a press release from the Israeli embassy in Nicosia insisted that the fact several journalists were among those aboard the Dignity "indicates that the purpose and behavior of the ship was primarily to create a media event."
A group of Palestinians living in Cyprus staged a demonstration in support of the aborted aid mission Tuesday evening outside the Israeli embassy.