An improvised cargo ship built by fishermen and international activists was hit by an explosion in Gaza City early Tuesday, the Gaza’s Ark initiative said in a statement.
At 3:45 a.m., a guard on board the boat received a call that the boat would be attacked, the statement said.
The guard left, but returned after nothing happened. Then an explosion occurred that caused the boat to sink.
No injuries were reported, but the boat was extensively damaged, the statement said. The perpetrators behind the attack remain unidentified and their motives unclear.
The boat, named Gaza’s Ark, was set to bring Palestinian products from Gaza to Europe in protest against Israel’s economic blockade on the coastal enclave.
“Gaza’s Ark and all our partners in the Freedom Flotilla Coalition are considering our next move in response to this cowardly act of terrorism,” David Heap of Gaza’s Ark Steering Committee said in the statement.
“But our position remains clear: Neither this nor any other attack will stop our efforts to challenge the blockade of Gaza until it ends.”
“This attack comes as we were almost ready to sail,” said Ehab Lotayef, another member of the Steering Committee. “You can sink a boat but you can’t sink a movement.”
The boat was set to sail in spring 2014, the organization said in November.
If Gaza’s Ark set sail to Europe, it would mark the first time goods from Gaza have been exported by sea since the signing of the 1994 Oslo Accords.
In May 2010, nine Turkish activists were killed during an Israeli raid on a six-ship flotilla trying to reach Gaza in defiance of the blockade.
Although the international outcry which followed the deadly raid forced Israel to significantly ease the terms of its blockade on Gaza, tight curbs remain in place on exports and travel.
Under the terms of the current restrictions, Gaza fishermen are not allowed to enter waters more than three nautical miles from the shore, with naval patrol boats firing at those who enter “unauthorized fishing areas.”
The Gaza Strip has been under a severe economic blockade imposed by Israel since 2006. The blockade was imposed following the victory of Hamas in the 2006 Palestinian elections and the subsequent 2007 clashes between Fatah and Hamas, which left Hamas in control of the Strip and Fatah in control of the West Bank.
The blockade has severely limited the imports and exports of the Gaza Strip and has led to frequent humanitarian crises and hardship for Gazans.
(Ma’an – www.maannews.net)