Pro-Palestinian activists sail to Gaza for 5th time

Boat carries Qatari, Lebanese group, Israeli reporters; Haniyeh hopes Arabs will break blockade.

boat 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
boat 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
A boat carrying a Qatari delegation, Lebanese activists and journalists from Israel and Lebanon sailed into Gaza City's small port in defiance of a border blockade. It was the fifth such boat trip since the summer. Israel and Egypt closed Gaza's borders after Hamas seized control of the territory in June 2007. Since November, Israel has tightened the blockade to pressure Palestinian terrorists to halt their rocket fire on Israeli border towns. However, sporadic fighting has continued, and Hamas declared Friday that they would not continue a truce that had taken effect in June. An official Arab delegation reached Gaza for the first time on the "Dignity," a small vessel that made its fifth blockade-breaking run. The two Qatari citizens aboard the "Dignity" are from the government-funded Qatar Authority for Charitable Activities. "We are here to represent the Qatar government and people," said delegation member Aed al-Kahtani. "We will look into the needs of our brothers in Gaza, and find out what is the most appropriate way to bring in (aid)." Qatar has warm relations with Israel and Hamas. The group has called on Arab countries to challenge Israel by sailing to Gaza. "We hope it will be the beginning of Arab moves to break the blockade," said Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, in a statement. Israeli naval boats blocked a recent attempt by a Libyan cargo ship to enter Gaza. Also on board Saturday were Israeli reporter Shlomi Eldar, a Lebanese reporter, Katya Nasser, from Arab satellite TV channel al-Jazeera, and another Lebanese citizen. Israel bars its citizens from entering Gaza, fearing for their safety. Eldar, who works for Channel 10, is the second Israeli journalist to come to Gaza by boat. He has covered the territory since 1991 and said he was trying to assess how much has changed since he was last able to visit. Israeli journalist Amira Hass, who writes for Haaretz, left Gaza abruptly earlier this month, saying Hamas security officials told her they could not guarantee her safety. The Dignity set sail from the Cypriot port of Larnaca on Friday, decked with Palestinian and Lebanese flags. It also carried symbolic humanitarian aid. Gaza's latest visitors are expected to stay in the territory overnight. staff contributed to this report.