JERUSALEM: A UN aid agency is calling on Israel to let emergency fuel into the Gaza Strip to avert the shutdown of hospitals and sanitation facilities.
Jamie McGoldrick, from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, on Wednesday called Israel’s restriction of fuel imports “a dangerous practice, with grave consequences on the rights of people in Gaza.”
Israel halted the supply of petroleum and natural gas to Gaza last week in response to incendiary kites and balloons launched from Gaza into southern Israel. Israel temporarily suspended fuel shipments to Gaza in July for similar reasons.
A decade-long Israeli and Egyptian blockade imposed since Hamas seized power in Gaza in 2007 has left the coastal territory with crippling fuel shortages and Gazans with just a few hours of electricity a day.
Swedish activists deported
Seven Swedish activists detained by Israeli forces for attempting to breach its blockade of Gaza have been deported to Sweden, the organizers of the Ship to Gaza activist flotilla said Wednesday.
Four of the activists arrived back in the Scandinavian country on Wednesday, and the three others were expected later in the day, Ship to Gaza Sweden spokesman Dror Feiler told AFP.
The Israeli navy said it intercepted the ship, Freedom for Gaza, late Friday “in accordance with international law,” and took it to the port of Ashdod.
The ship was carrying medical supplies and had a total of 12 crew and activists on board, hailing from Sweden, Spain, Canada and Germany and France. All have been deported, Feiler said.
Meanwhile, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said Wednesday Israel’s interception and boarding of the ship, as well as the detention of the activists and crew, violated international law.
“The (Swedish) government has been in contact with Israeli authorities about Ship to Gaza and has insisted that the actions of the Israeli authorities regarding the Swedish-flagged vessel Freedom and the people on board are not backed up by international law,” Wallstrom said, adding that her government had also demanded that the ship and its cargo be released.
Freedom was the second boat of the “Freedom Flotilla” to be intercepted en route to “break the blockade” on Gaza, organizers said.
Four boats left Scandinavia in mid-May and stopped in some 28 ports along the way, with two remaining behind after a recent stop in the Italian port of Palermo.
On Sunday, the Israeli navy intercepted a Norwegian-flagged activist boat that was part of the flotilla.