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Israel to Deport Gaza Activists


Mairead Maguire was detained trying to enter Gaza (BBC)

Israel says it will expel eight pro-Palestinian activists detained at sea last week as they tried to ferry aid to Gaza in defiance of Israel's blockade.

Nobel peace laureate Mairead Maguire and former US congresswoman Cynthia McKinney are among the detainees.

They complain the Israeli navy seized them illegally in Palestinian waters.

Israel's navy has blockaded Gaza since the election victory of Hamas militants in 2006. It said the Greek ship ignored orders to stop and was intercepted.

The crew and passengers were taken into custody last Tuesday and the ship, which had set sail from Cyprus, was impounded in the Israeli port of Ashdod.

Israel's Interior Ministry said the activists would be sent home later on Monday, after refusing to comply willingly with their deportation orders.

Officials said the three tonnes of aid would be delivered to Gaza by road once it had been checked over.

On Friday, five Bahrainis were deported after interior and foreign ministry officials touched down on Israeli soil for the first time to escort them home.

Israel has allowed several protest boats to dock in Gaza in the past year, but has blocked others.


Speaking to the media from jail near Tel Aviv, Ms Maguire said the activists were considering contesting the Israeli deportation orders because the recipients had been brought to Israel by the authorities against their will.

"We were kidnapped and we were brought here at point of a gun from Gazan waters here to Israel; we have been abducted," Ms McGuire told the al-Jazeera network.

Ms Maguire co-founded Women for Peace, which later became the Community for Peace People, along with fellow Belfast woman Betty Williams.

The two women were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for their efforts in trying to encourage a peaceful resolution to the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

The International Committee of the Red Cross recently described the 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza as people "trapped in despair", unable to rebuild their lives after Israel's offensive.

Donors have pledged $4.5bn for reconstruction and rehabilitation in Gaza following the 22-day offensive which left more than 50,000 homes, 800 industrial properties and 200 schools damaged or destroyed, as well as 39 mosques and two churches.

Israel says its blockade of Gaza is necessary to prevent weapons smuggling and to put pressure on the Hamas movement to release an Israeli soldier captured in a cross-border raid in 2006.

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