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Free Gaza ship stopped by Israeli navy
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A ship carrying humanitarian aid on its way to the Gaza Strip was stopped Tuesday morning by the Israeli Navy and was starting to return to Cyprus, an international rights group said.

The spokeswoman of the Free Gaza Movement Angela Godfrey- Goldstein told Xinhua that the ship was surrounded by Israeli navy vessel when it sailed in the international sea before entering the water of the Gaza Strip.

"The ship was badly damaged," she added.

Sixteen people including rights activists, doctors and journalists boarded the ship at the Cypriot port of Larnaca late afternoon Monday, from where they will make a "symbolic" attempt to cross the border into Gaza on an emergency mission to help ease the suffering of the Palestinians in the coastal area.

The spokesman of Israeli Foreign Ministry Yigal Palmor stressed that the Israel Defense Forces didn't intend to attack the ship, explaining that "the patrol boat of the IDF was trying to prevent it from entering the combat zone of Gaza."

"The patrol boat approached the ship and sent a warning by radio, but received no reply. Suddenly, the ship made a dangerous bypass and collided with the patrol boat," said Palmor. "The ship now is being escorted the Israeli patrol boat on the way back to Cyprus."

However, sources close to the activists on the ship of Free Gaza Movement claimed it does not have enough fuel to reach the Island.

The Free Gaza Movement first made the crossing in August to highlight the plight of the impoverished territory's 1.5 million Palestinian residents.

(Xinhua News Agency December 30, 2008)

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