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Israel releases seven passengers of Gaza flotilla

Tensions rise as Gaza bans Israeli fruit imports following similar restrictions on Israeli side

By Anadolu Agency - Jul 11,2018 - Last updated at Jul 11,2018

Palestinian Izzeddin Sahin, 26, who was shot and wounded by Israeli occupation forces during a protest during the ‘Great March of Return’ demonstrations, walks to the marketplace to sell vegetables to provide a living for his family, despite having cast and platin at his leg, on Wednesday in Gaza City (Anadolu Agency photo)

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories  — Israel on Wednesday released seven passengers of a Palestinian humanitarian flotilla that was attempting to break a years-long blockade of Gaza. 

The flotilla was intercepted by Israeli naval forces on Tuesday.

 Raed Abu Dair, coordinator of Gaza’s National Committee for Breaking the Siege, told Anadolu Agency that all of the boat’s passengers except the captain and his assistant were released. 

Stating that those released arrived in Gaza by passing through the city of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, he called on international organizations to obtain information on the condition of the captain and assistant.

 Earlier, Israeli occupation force spokesman Avichay Adraee said the boat, which had been carrying eight passengers, was “stopped without incident”.

 Adraee said that after being searched, the vessel and its passengers would be taken to Israel’s Port of Ashdod.

 He had gone on to defend what he described as Israel’s “naval cordon” on Gaza, calling it “necessary and legal... for maintaining Israel’s security and its maritime borders”.

Freedom flotilla

 

The flotilla set out from the Gaza coast earlier on Tuesday in hopes of breaking Israel’s 11-year blockade of the Gaza Strip.

It was the second humanitarian flotilla to set out from Gaza since Palestinians first began holding rallies along the Gaza-Israel security fence on March 30 this year. 

An earlier flotilla which set out from Gaza on May 29 carrying Palestinian medical patients and university students was likewise intercepted. Since 2007, the Gaza Strip has suffered under a crippling Israeli blockade that has gutted its economy and deprived its roughly 2 million inhabitants of many basic commodities. 

Also on Wednesday, Gaza’s agriculture ministry  banned the import of Israeli fruit in retaliation against an Israeli ban on the import of fruit from Gaza.

 “In response to Israel’s ban on importing our fruit, we will ban fruits imported from Israel,” ministry official Tahseen Al Sakka told Anadolu Agency.

Before the tit-for-tat bans, the Gaza Strip had imported roughly 20 tons of Israeli fruit per day through the Kerem Shalom border crossing while exporting some 20 tons of vegetables to Israel, according to Al Sakka.

The decision to ban Israeli fruit imports, the official added, “will not affect local prices for fruit, which we can produce in Gaza”.

However, he said, Israel’s ban on fruit from Gaza will hurt Gaza’s agricultural sector by creating a surplus in the coastal enclave, which would likely result in “considerable losses” for Gaza’s farmers.

Since March 30, at least 137 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli gunfire and thousands more have been injured while taking part in regular demonstrations along the Gaza-Israel security fence. 

Demonstrators demand an end to Israel’s decades-long occupation of Palestinian land and its ongoing blockade, which has brought the impoverished Gaza Strip to the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe.

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