JERUSALEM — Israeli troops on Saturday commandeered a Gaza-bound ship that tried to break through Israel's blockade of the Hamas-ruled seaside strip, the military said. European lawmakers and other pro-Palestinian activists aboard did not resist, and the Finnish-flagged vessel was diverted to an Israeli port.
The voyage by the ship, Estelle, marked the latest challenge to the air, land and sea embargo of Gaza that Israel imposed after the Islamic militant Hamas group seized the territory in 2007. Israeli officials say they need to enforce the blockade to prevent weapons smuggling.
Hamas called for more attempts to break the sea blockade.flotilla
Six Israeli naval vessels stopped the Estelle when it was about 30 nautical miles from Gaza, and masked soldiers boarder the ship and ordered it to sail to Israel's Ashdod port, said Victoria Strand, a spokeswoman for the activists. more
Noam Chomsky, one of the world’s greatest linguists, philosophers, and political critics, is finally here in Gaza for the first time.
Chomsky was the guest speaker in a seminar attended by Gaza’s elite thinkers and intellectuals mainly discussing his political views and opinions on contemporary political issues.
Mr. Chomsky openly slammed on the United States foreign policy, specially its unlimited support to Israel. He said that the two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is still more realistic than the one-state solution, despite the continuous expansion of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Mr. Chomsky bitterly criticized the US’s policies in the Middle East, which are based on supporting dictators all the way until it is no more possible to protect them, and then replacing them with new faces keeping the old regime in place. He was not excited about what is called “the Arab Spring”, and was definitely against any foreign intervention in Syria. Chomsky was invited to Gaza by the Islamic University of Gaza. more
The Israeli Navy revealed that it deployed several Saar 4 war ships, equipped with cameras, radars and advanced surveillance equipment, in large areas of the Mediterranean, to monitor and stop ships that sail to what it called “Israeli territorial waters”, the Quds Net News Agency reported.
The ships complement surveillance missions conducted by the Shoval Israeli drones; the navy started flying those drones after the Lebanon-based Hezbollah party recently managed to send a surveillance drone that flew over southern Israel before, and managed to take pictures of sensitive areas, before the Israeli Air Force noticed it and shot it down.
Israel believes that Hezbollah will be sending more drones to spy on Israel, especially on the Demona nuclear facility in the Negev. It also believes that Hezbollah might even try to send drones that are armed and capable of firing missiles into certain facilities in the country.
Israel’s Navy concluded its training on the new Saar ship, while part of the drill was a simulation on how to intercept the Estelle solidarity ship that is approaching Gaza. Israel said it will not allow the ship to reach the Gaza shore, and will stop and board it. more
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) – Palestinians in the West Bank started to cast ballots Saturday morning at 7:00 a.m. About half a million voters will elect their representatives in 93 local councils across the West Bank.
Representatives of Palestinian political parties, local and international monitors as well as journalists will be presents at the polling stations. Some 4,600 representatives of local political parties have been accredited to watch the voting process as well as 1,890 local monitors, 550 journalists and 130 guests from different countries.
Voting started at 7:00 a.m. in 340 polling stations which will close at 7:00 p.m. except one polling station in Nablus for the Samaritans, who will have one more hour because of the Saturday holiday. more