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(photo credit: AP [file])
Dignity, a small boat carrying activists, was allowed to sail into Gaza on Tuesday, less than a week after the navy stopped a Libyan cargo ship from entering the Palestinian port and after police prevented a group of Israeli Arabs from embarking for the Strip from Jaffa.
The boat left Cyprus on Monday night, and was organized by the Free Gaza Movement, which has successfully sailed three ships into the Strip in recent months.
The group heralded Tuesday's arrival as a milestone in breaking Israel's blockade of the territory. The ship was reportedly carrying a ton of medical supplies and high-protein baby formula.
Defense officials said the decision to allow the boat into Gaza was made by Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
The reason the Libyan boat was not allowed into Gaza last week, the official said, was because Libya is at war with Israel.
"If we stopped the Free Gaza boat we would be playing into their hands, since this is all a publicity stunt," one defense official said.
UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday called on Israel to lift its blockade on the Gaza Strip, Israel Radio reported.
After two days of discussions, the council, which consists of 47 member states, passed a list of 99 "recommendations" of gestures for Israel to make to ease Palestinian suffering, including freeing all prisoners.
Tuesday's discussion was the third time the Palestinian situation has been discussed since 2006.
Israel's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Aharon Leshno Ya'ar, was quoted by Reuters as saying that "Israel remains committed to reinforcing areas in which we are succeeding and bettering those areas that need improvement."
He called the discussion in the Human Rights Council "positive and productive." According to the report, representatives from Syria, Egypt and Iran condemned Israel during the discussion, regarding its policies on Palestinian prisoners and settlement construction.
The US did not take part in the discussion, as it says the body discriminates against Israel.
Earlier Tuesday, Barak ordered the IDF to open the border crossings into Gaza to enable the passage of humanitarian aid. During the day, the IDF allowed 45 trucks of food and medical supplies into the Strip, as well as cooking gas and fuel for the local power plant.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who toured communities bordering Gaza, repeated her calls - stepped up during the election campaign - for military action to stop the Kassam rocket attacks from Gaza.
"In order not to harm Israel's deterrence in the region, and not to be seen as someone who doesn't respond to attacks on it, Israel needs to respond," she said.
"Israel needs to respond immediately, especially since we justifiably said when we declared our acceptance of the cease-fire [in June] that we will not agree to its violation."
Israel should have responded on the very first day of the cease-fire to "the very first violation," Livni said.
Earlier in the day during a speech in Tel Aviv, Livni said, "If Hamas knows that Israel won't be quiet when missiles fall on Ashkelon, they will feel the responsibility on their shoulders."
She said she was "ashamed to call what is currently happening a cease-fire."
"Israel cannot accept Hamas rule in Gaza, and therefore from the strategic point of view we need to focus on what is happening there," Livni said. "When we are faced with a decision to come to some kind of arrangement - like a cease-fire - which may seem in the short time a legitimate interest, we must remember that when Israel gets into these arrangements, they harm us and strengthen Hamas."
"Therefore, even when we come to agreements on a cease-fire, we need to ensure that Israel won't settle for violations, and will respond to each violation - whether serious or slight," she said. "We are living in an area where image has meaning, and when the image is weakened, that harms Israel's deterrence capability."
Olmert also went south on Tuesday, visiting Sderot.
After visiting a high school and a newly built bomb shelter there, Olmert said that Israel would not reconcile itself to a situation where its citizens needed to hunker down in bomb shelters for protection. Rather, he said, when the time was right, Israel would go on the offensive and "stop for once and for all what is disturbing the daily routine of our lives."
Meanwhile, former Iranian president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani warned Israel of the consequences of the ongoing siege of Gaza.
He said that Muslim anger over the siege would eventually explode and "burn" Israelis.
Rafsanjani also criticized Muslim countries for passivity over the siege.
"This disgrace will remain" a stain on those states, he said.
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