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Israeli forces detain activists and seize control of boat in Gaza blockade protest

This picture taken on May 29, 2018 shows fishing boats carrying a group of Palestinian activists who are protesting and trying to break Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. (Photo by AFP)

Israeli forces stopped and seized control of a Palestinian boat seeking to break the naval limits in a show of protest against the regime’s crippling siege of the Gaza Strip.

The boat was one of several vessels carrying a group of approximately 30 people, including Palestinian protesters wounded in weeks-long demonstrations along the fence that separates Gaza from the Israeli-occupied territories.

Israeli forces intervened and arrested the 17 passengers from the boat running the blockade and escorted the vessel 12 miles away from the Gaza coast. 

"The boat was stopped by Israeli forces several kilometers out at sea," Salah Abd al-Ati, one of the organizers, told AFP.

Earlier on Tuesday, Palestinians had gathered at the Gaza City harbor as boats were setting to sail to break the 11-year siege, which has prevented medical supplies from getting into the territory and patients from leaving.

In a press conference held at the Gaza City port, Abd al-Ati said the trip complies with all human rights regulations that ensure the right to travel and transportation.

“Gaza has become the largest isolated prison in the world and it does not receive its minimal rights because of Israel's blockade,” he added.

A group of men, among them two wounded, wait near a passengers registration booth at Gaza City's port on May 28, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli siege since June 2007. The blockade has caused a decline in the standards of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty.

The Israeli regime denies about 1.8 million people in Gaza their basic rights, such as freedom of movement, jobs with proper wages as well as adequate healthcare and education.

The journey marks the anniversary of the May 2010 attack by Israeli commandos on an aid flotilla led by the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara. Nine people, eight of them Turks, were killed in the attack.

The development follows the six-week rallies at the Gaza fence, during which Israeli forces killed over 110 Palestinian protesters and injured thousands more.

Israeli warplanes attack Gaza

Meahwhile, Israeli aircraft on Tuesday carried out airstrikes on bases belonging to Palestinian resistance movements, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, inside Gaza, following mortar fire from the enclave earlier in the day, Hamas and residents said.

Earlier in the day, Israel’s military said that a barrage of 25 mortar shells had been fired from the Gaza Strip toward the south of the Israeli-occupied territories. No casualties were reported.

The army said in a statement that Tuesday’s attacks set off sirens and activated the so-called Iron Dome missile system, claiming most of the mortars were intercepted.

The mortar attacks, the largest single barrage fired since the 2014 Gaza war, came a day after Israeli tank fire killed a young Palestinian man and injured another in the southern part of the Gaza Strip as the Tel Aviv regime presses ahead with its acts of aggression against the coastal sliver.

Tensions have been running high along the Gaza fence since March 30, which marked the start of a series of protests, dubbed “The Great March of Return,” demanding the right to return for those driven out of their homeland.

The Gaza clashes reached their peak on May 14, the eve of the 70th anniversary of the Nakba Day (the Day of Catastrophe), which coincided this year with the US embassy relocation from Tel Aviv to the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.

Apart from enforcing its blockade, Israel has launched several wars on the Gaza Strip, the last of which began in early July 2014. The military aggression, which ended on August 26, 2014, killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians. Over 11,100 others were wounded.

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