Two boats that set off from Cyprus packed with Palestinian activists; emergency supplies; and the sister-in-law of Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair have landed in the Gaza strip.
The well-publicised voyage was to highlight the effects of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, and the crippling shortages of essentials the Palestinians say it creates for ordinary people.
“These boats arriving won’t break the siege, but it does mean people in the west reject the continuation of the siege on Gaza. This will put pressure on the occupation and international and local parties who beseige Gaza,” said a Hamas spokesperson.
17 nations are represented on the boats which the Israelis concluded would be more trouble to stop than let through.
“The government of Israel has decided to allow the two boats to get into Gaza. The decision was made because we wanted to avoid the media provocation on the high seas that they were apparently planning,” said the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s Arye Mekel.
The Israeli navy did turn back a number of Palestinian boats that left Gaza to welcome the aid ships, but denied firing shots overhead to deter them.