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Palestine Palestinians attempt to break Israel's illegal maritime blockade

PALESTINIANS injured by Israeli army gunfire during recent peaceful protests and students tried today to break Israel’s illegal maritime blockade of the territory by sailing out to sea.

Dozens of small vessels accompanied two larger boats as they headed out towards the six-mile fishing limit Israeli authorities impose on Gazan mariners.

The small boats had to pull back as the two vessels went further out, before they were intercepted by the Israeli navy.

Israeli soldiers arrested the passengers on one of the boats and warships escorted it 12 miles away from the Gazan coast towards the Israeli side.

It wasn’t clear what had happened to the second boat.

A’laa el Batta, the head of the International Committee to Break the Siege on Gaza, told the Middle East Eye website that “the people on the boat are in high spirits … we hold a message of freedom and peace and this is our call to the world to hear our voice.”

The maritime protest is part of the series of peaceful demonstrations called the Great March of Return, which Israeli soldiers have met with deadly force. It also marked eight years since Israeli commandos raided a Turkish vessel trying to break the siege and murdered several of the peace activists on board.

Meanwhile, Israeli warplanes bombarded the Gaza Strip, carrying out 35 air strikes with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowing to “exact a heavy price from those who seek to harm” Israel.

The attacks followed the firing of several mortars across the border from Gaza into Israel, causing no injuries and little damage. The mortar fire followed Israel’s cold-blooded massacre on May 14 of dozens of peaceful protesters who had marched towards Israel’s border wall.

Human Rights Watch published a report today charging that Israeli banks have been repeatedly breaking international law through their deep involvement with the country’s illegal settlement programme in the West Bank.

The report said that bank activities in or with settlements have helped encourage settlement growth and “contribute to rights abuses” against Palestinians.

It added that Israeli banks, and international banks doing business with them, may be engaging in pillage by acquiring ownership interests in housing projects on seized land.

“Most Israeli banks finance or ‘accompany’ construction projects in the settlements by becoming partners in settlement expansion, supervising each stage of construction, holding the buyers’ money in escrow and taking ownership of the project in case of default by the construction company,” the report said.

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