02/06/2009, 00.00
ISRAEL - PALESTINE

Israel expels activists from “Brotherhood Ship” carrying aid to Gaza

Joshua Lapide
The Israeli Navy blocked the ship yesterday concerned it was carrying weapons for Palestinians. Instead it was carrying humanitarian aid. Among the expelled Msgr. Hilarion Capucci, current bishop of Cesarea.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A group of pro-Palestinian activists, stopped by the Israeli navy onboard a humanitarian aid ship bound for Gaza, reached Lebanon this morning.

The 10 activists, nine Lebanese and a Palestinian resident in Lebanon, helped by UN peacekeepers, crossed the Lebanese-Israeli border reaching the city of Naqoura.

Among them 86 year-old Greek-Catholic bishop Hilarion Capucci, who has been brought to Syria.

The 10 had embarked onboard a Togolese ship to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza, in an attempt to force or evade the Israeli naval blockade.  The ship originally named Tali, but re-baptised “Brotherhood Ship”, was stopped and then escorted to the port of Ashdod for inspection. The Israeli army suspected the boat of carrying arms for Hamas, but all they found were hundreds of bottles of water, food and medicine.

The 10 activists and crew – 18 people in all – were expelled and sent to Lebanon and other destinations.

According to organisers among them Salam Khoder, Al Jazeera correspondent and Hani Suleiman, the Israel Navy stopped the boat while it was still in Egyptian waters and fired shots before boarding.  They say that passengers and crew were also beaten.

Msgr. Hilarion Capucci, the Greek-Catholic Archbishop of Caesarea, was arrested in Lebanon in 1974 after being caught with weapons in his car of which the prelate said he had no knowledge.  He was sentenced to 12 years in prison, but was released after three years upon a papal request to the Israeli government.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora condemned the action:” Those who commit massacres against innocent civilians in Lebanon and Gaza will not stop themselves from assaulting, in front of the world, a ship carrying humanitarian supplies”.

There have been several attempts to break the blockade over the past months by sympathizers of Gaza's 1.5 million Palestinians, who are suffering a lack of food, medicine and fuel.

 

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