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#FreedomFlotilla: Israel stops al-Awda medical aid boat entering Gaza

The al-Awda boat was stopped as it was on the verge of reaching Gaza [Getty]

Date of publication: 29 July, 2018

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After hoping the flotilla would reach the besieged Gaza Strip, Israeli naval forces have blocked the al-Awda boat from entering the waters of the besieged enclave.

Israel's navy on Sunday intercepted a Norwegian-flagged activist boat trying to break its more than decade-long blockade of the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military and activists said.

"The activity ended without exceptional events," a military statement said. "At this time the ship is being transferred to the port of Ashdod" along the coast of central Israel.

An activist group affiliated with the boat, the al-Awda (The Return), said 22 people and a cargo of medical supplies were onboard.

Activists were hoping the flotilla would reach the beseiged Gaza Strip on Sunday.

Breaking the siege 

The Freedom Flotilla set sail in May for the Gaza Strip to challenge Israel's decade-old blockade of the besieged territory.

One of the vessels, al-Awda, was named to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the al-Nakba ("The Catastrophe), in which more than 700,000 Palestinians fled or were forcibly expelled from their homes during the establishment of the Israeli state.

This year's freedom flotilla was deployed just weeks after Israeli forces opened fire on demonstrators in Gaza protesting for the right of return, killing more than 60.

"The blockade of Gaza is in its 11th year. It is such a gross violation of international law that it can be characterised as a crime against humanity," participant Mikkel Grüner, a Danish national who is city councillor in Bergen, Norway, said at the time the flotilla set sail.

Volunteers joined the multinational fleet for different legs of the journey, with a select group of crew assigned to participate in the final run to Gaza.

The flotilla schedule was kept secret to protect the crew. In the past, mechanical failures have affected previous flotilla attempts, with allegations Israel may have tampered with the ships.

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