Israel defends Gaza blockade

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Israel's defence minister says that his government will hold Lebanon accountable if more violence results from a blockade-busting ship headed for Gaza.

The boat with activists and aid on board could embark within days on a new attempt to reach Gaza after Lebanese authorities granted permission for it to sail first to Cyprus.

Israel has made clear that even though it has eased its land blockade of Gaza, it maintains a naval blockade and will not allow any ships to dock there for fear they could bring weapons to Hamas.

Speaking in New York after meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Defence Minister Ehud Barak said that "it's well known that we ask all of them as we asked the previous flotilla to join us and go through Ashdod and we cannot accept someone who will try to just sail directly to Gaza."

Israeli navy commandos raided a blockade-busting international flotilla bound for Gaza on May 31, killing nine pro-Palestinian activists.

About a week later, Israeli forces seized another Gaza-bound ship with aid and activists on it without meeting resistance, preventing it from busting the blockade. No one was hurt.

The new challenge to the blockade comes just days after Israel eased its three-year ban on all but humanitarian goods for Gaza. Israel said on Sunday it will now allow in everything except weapons or other items deemed to have a military use.

The Israeli military says it is ready to increase the transfer of food and household items to Gaza by 30 per cent, so that up to 140 trucks filled with goods would be able to pass into Gaza daily.

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