Last Updated: 2018-07-11
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GAZA, Palestine, July 11 (NNN-NNA) - The Israeli navy, seized a boat, Tuesday, that had left from a Gaza port, with wounded Palestinians aboard, in a bid to challenge the blockade of the Palestinian enclave. Hundreds of people had gathered to see off the boat, carrying nine passengers, including four people, said to have been wounded by Israeli soldiers, along with some students.

The passengers "with specific needs are prevented from travelling, receiving care and finishing their studies," said organiser, Raed Abu Dair. "We are determined to break the blockade."

Mahmud Abu Ataya, 25, who recently suffered a leg wound, east of Gaza City, said, "I am leaving to be cared for abroad." But the boat was seized by the Israeli navy soon after setting off.

A similar attempt was made in May which also resulted in Israeli forces seizing the boat, several kilometres out to sea. Israel's blockade restricts Gazan boats to up to six nautical miles off the enclave.

Israel and Islamist movement Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, have fought three wars since 2008.

UN officials and rights activists have repeatedly called for Israel to lift the blockade, citing deteriorating humanitarian conditions. Israel says it is necessary to stop Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza from obtaining weapons, or materials that could be used to make them.

On Monday, Israel also closed its only crossing with the Gaza Strip, in response to weeks of fire at farms caused by kites and balloons carrying firebombs from the Palestinian enclave. A spokesman for Israel's fire service says, 750 fires have burned 2,600 hectares, putting the damage at millions of shekels.

Gazans began launching the kites as part of protests along the border, calling for Palestinian refugees to return to their former homes now inside Israel. Since protests and clashes broke out along the Gaza border, on Mar 30, at least 139 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire and more than 4,000 have been wounded.

No Israelis have been killed.-- NNN-NNA