|Israel agreed to allow two boats to dock in Gaza in what activists on board called a “historic occasion” that they vowed to turn into a “regular passage from Gaza to the outside world”.|
“Everybody is ecstatic,” said Jeff Halper, from aboard one of the two vessels, the 20-metre Free Gaza and the 18m Liberty, that set sail for Gaza on Friday from Cyprus. “We broke the siege,” he said.
On Friday, the Israeli foreign ministry had issued a tough-worded statement warning the Free Gaza organisation, the group behind the action, that Israel would “make sure this provocation does not take place” and that “all options are being considered”. Reports from Gaza suggested the Israeli navy had deployed and could prevent the boats from reaching the strip.
But late yesterday, Israel appeared to backtrack and said the 46 activists, carrying humanitarian aid including hearing aids for Palestinian children, could disembark in Gaza, where they were greeted by hundreds of cheering Palestinians.
“I think it is a historic occasion,” Jeff Halper, a participating Israeli-Jewish activist, said just after the two boats entered Gazan waters. “I think it shows people power and I think it should give hope to people all over the world under oppression that there are people out there and you can achieve things.”
Israel has led an international boycott of Gaza since Hamas seized power in the territory in June 2007. Trade crossing between Gaza and Israel are closed to all but basic humanitarian supplies, causing widespread shortages of fuel, electricity and basic goods in Gaza and decimating the local economy.