Gaza residents show support for boat in bid to break Israel siege

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A vessel carrying Palestinian patients, students and activists attempted on Tuesday to break Israel’s imposed boundary off the coast of the Gaza Strip with the intention of reaching Limassol in southern Cyprus.

Israel’s crippling land, areal and naval siege on the enclave has trapped about two million Palestinians since 2006 and devastated its economy.

The group set sail in the morning, and by midday it had crossed nine nautical miles (16km), with four Israeli warships flanking it. Shortly after, Israeli naval forces intercepted the vessel, which was searched and transferred to the Israeli port of Ashdod.

At least 17 people on board were detained and expected to be returned to Gaza.

Under the Oslo Accords signed in 1993, Israel is obligated to permit fishing up to 20 nautical miles, but this has never been implemented.

The widest range Israel has allowed in the past 10 years is 12 nautical miles (22km), and at times, the limit was reduced to one nautical mile.

Boats are often limited to six nautical miles (11km), and Israeli forces regularly fire warning shots to boats attempting to breach it.

Tuesday’s boat also carried protesters who had been wounded in the weeks-long demonstrations dubbed the Great March of Return along the fence with Israel. Hundreds of others boarded more than 30 boats in support of the main vessel, but did not cross the permitted boundary. 

As documented in this series of photographs, the supporting boats, most of which were small fishing vessels, carried men and women mostly in their 20s and 30s who were determined to highlight Israel’s blockade.

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