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Gaza protest boat sails into Lebanon

 International activists load boxes of medical supplies aboard a boat before setting sail for Gaza from the Cypriot port of Larnaca, Cyprus, Monday, D...
 International activists cover boxes of medical supplies to protect them from the rain aboard a boat before setting sail for Gaza from the Cypriot por...
 Former U.S. congresswoman Cynthia McKinney is seen in front of boat before setting sail with boxes of medical supplies aboard, for Gaza from the Cypr...
 A crowd on the dock welcomes the vessel SS Dignity from the group Free Gaza, as it arrives in the southern port city of Tyre, Lebanon, Tuesday, Dec. ...
 Lebanese soldiers and civil defence workers help evacuate the vessel SS Dignity from the group Free Gaza, after it arrived in the southern port city ...

CYPRUS GAZA BLOCKADE

International activists load boxes of medical supplies aboard a boat before setting sail for Gaza from the Cypriot port of Larnaca, Cyprus, Monday, D...

CYPRUS GAZA BLOCKADE

International activists cover boxes of medical supplies to protect them from the rain aboard a boat before setting sail for Gaza from the Cypriot por...

CYPRUS GAZA BLOCKADE

Former U.S. congresswoman Cynthia McKinney is seen in front of boat before setting sail with boxes of medical supplies aboard, for Gaza from the Cypr...

APTOPIX Mideast Lebanon Gaza Boat

A crowd on the dock welcomes the vessel SS Dignity from the group Free Gaza, as it arrives in the southern port city of Tyre, Lebanon, Tuesday, Dec. ...

Mideast Lebanon Gaza Boat

Lebanese soldiers and civil defence workers help evacuate the vessel SS Dignity from the group Free Gaza, after it arrived in the southern port city ...

A boat carrying international peace activists and medical supplies to the embattled Gaza Strip sailed into a Lebanese port on Tuesday _ after being turned back and damaged by the Israeli navy, organizers of the trip said.
A small crowd on the docks in the southern Lebanese port city of Tyre, including fishermen, cheered welcoming the vessel, called SS Dignity, and some flashed the victory sign.
"We have sadness in our hearts that we could not reach our people in Gaza but we will continue the journey until we meet them," said Sami al-Hajj, who was among the activists on the boat.
Al-Hajj, a cameraman for the pan-Arab Al-Jazeera Television who spent six years in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay before being freed earlier this year, said Israeli navy rammed the boat and denied them entry.
The boat, which set off from Cyprus Monday, bore clear damage marks near its tip. Its passengers had sought to make a statement and deliver medical supplies to Gaza. The trip's organizers claimed the boat was clearly in international waters _ 90 miles off the coast of Gaza _ at the time of its close encounter with the Israeli navy.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the boat ignored an Israeli radio order to turn back early Tuesday.
Palmor says the boat tried to outmaneuver an Israeli navy ship and crashed into it, which lightly damaged both vessels. The navy then escorted the boat out into the territorial waters of Cyprus.
Protest organizer Derek Graham, from the group Free Gaza, said the Israelis' "ramming" of the boat damaged its engine and forced it to "limp" to Lebanon.
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman ordered Tuesday the boat be "rescued" and welcomed back in Lebanon.
Cyprus Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou told public radio that his country would lodge a formal protest over Israel's alleged ramming of the Free Gaza boat.
He said that although the boat is neither Cypriot-owned nor Cypriot-registered, the fact that it left Cyprus and has Cypriot nationals aboard accords the Cyprus government "the right to be informed and to protest."
Kyprianou said he has instructed the Cyprus embassy in Israel to lodge the protest.
The 66-foot (20-meter) yacht Dignity, flying the flag of Gibraltar, left Larnaca Monday with almost 4 tons of Cypriot-donated supplies and 16 passengers, including former U.S. Representative Cynthia McKinney, Cypriot lawmaker Eleni Theocharous and activists from Britain, Australia, Ireland and Tunisia, organizers said.
Theocharous, who is also a surgeon, said supplies include urgently needed surgical equipment and antibiotics.
The Free Gaza group has made five deliveries of aid by boat to Gaza since August, defying a blockade imposed by Israel when Hamas won control of the territory in June 2007.
Israel has launched the deadliest bombing campaign against Palestinians in decades on Saturday which it says is in retaliation for rocket fire aimed at civilians in southern Israeli towns. The strikes in Gaza have killed more than 360 people and wounded hundreds of others.
Aid ships for the Palestinian coastal territory often stop at the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus before heading to Gaza, opting for the indirect route to deprive Israel of any excuse not to allow the ship into Gaza.
The last boat to make the trip on Dec. 20 carried a Qatari delegation, Lebanese activists and journalists from Israel and Lebanon. Qatar, an Arab Gulf state, has warm relations with both Israel and Hamas.


Updated : 2021-04-23 05:48 GMT+08:00