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Scandinavian ship sails to challenge Gaza blockade

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 7 Aug 2012 16:18 GMT
Author: Reuters
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OSLO, Aug 7 (Reuters) - Scandinavian activist groups are launching an aid ship destined for Gaza on Tuesday, hoping to challenge the Israeli blockade and draw international attention to the conflict in a move reminiscent of the 2010 "Freedom Flotilla", organisers said.

"We have the same goal as the previous flotillas, to put an end to the blockade of Gaza by challenging the Israeli navy," said Torstein Dahle, the leader of the Norwegian section of the activist group "Ship to Gaza".

"This time around it will be an easy task for the Israelis to stop us because we will be so few and strictly non-violent," Dahle told Reuters at Oslo harbour.

In May 2010, several aid ships trying to run Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip were halted by Israeli naval commandos, who killed nine pro-Palestinian Turks aboard one of the vessels.

A second convoy, planned a year later, did not sail after the organizers said they had been sabotaged.

In November 2011, the Israeli navy boarded two yachts in international waters, one Canadian and one Irish, carrying pro-Palestinian activists and medical supplies and heading for Gaza to challenge the Israeli blockade.

The SV Estelle, a 53-metre vessel backed mainly by Swedish and Norwegian groups, will sail from Oslo on Tuesday, and organizers hope several other ships will join it during its journey before it reaches waters off Gaza in October.

Israel says it blockades seaborne approaches to the Gaza Strip to prevent arms smuggling to the Palestinians. (Reporting by Vegard Bottreli, editing by Tim Pearce)

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