- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 1, 2009

ISRAEL

Navy intercepts Gaza aid boat

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip | The Israeli navy intercepted a ship carrying foreign peace activists trying to break a blockade of Gaza on Tuesday and forced it to head to an Israeli port, the military said.

A statement said the Greek-registered freighter Arion ignored a radio message from the Israeli military saying it would not be allowed to enter Gaza waters and ordering it to turn back.

The statement said naval personnel boarded the small vessel without any shots being fired.

The military said those on board would be handed over to immigration authorities on arrival in the southern port of Ashdod, and humanitarian cargo would be trucked into the Gaza Strip after a security check.

An earlier statement by the voyage’s organizers, the Free Gaza Movement, said the vessel, renamed the Spirit of Humanity, left the Cypriot port of Larnaca on Monday bound for Gaza with 3 tons of medical supplies.

The 20 passengers include former Rep. Cynthia McKinney, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire and other activists from Britain, Ireland, Bahrain and Jamaica.

ISRAEL

Group says drones killed Palestinians

JERUSALEM | Missile-firing Israeli drones unlawfully killed at least 29 Palestinian civilians during the Gaza Strip war, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.

Despite having advanced surveillance equipment, drone operators failed to exercise proper caution “as required by the laws of war” in verifying their targets were combatants, the New York-based monitoring group said in a 39-page report that described six purported strikes by remote-controlled aircraft.

Israel has a fleet of spy drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, but refuses to confirm or deny widespread suspicion that some of the aircraft also carry weapons.

The military cast doubt on Human Rights Watch’s research methods and asserted in a statement that all Israeli actions “conform to international law, as do the weapons and munitions used.”

TURKEY

Ankara courts NATO on demining work

ANKARA | The Turkish defense ministry said Tuesday it has begun negotiations with NATO officials to clear land mines along the border with Syria.

There are more than 600,000 land mines scattered along the Turkish border with Syria, most planted in the 1950s in an effort to secure the border.

Western-backed Turkey in 1957 amassed its troops along the Syrian border after a military coup in Damascus and a Syrian slant toward the Soviet Union.

The Turkish ratification in 2003 of the Ottawa Treaty, a convention banning the use of anti-personnel land mines, calls on Ankara to clear its borders of mines by 2014.

The defense ministry said it would consider bids for the demining activity and work toward a physical border security system as a replacement, Turkish Daily Hurriyet reported.

Turkish officials said the work would best be conducted via contracts with the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency.

The move ends a dispute in Ankara over who would conduct the demining activity.

SAUDI ARABIA

Unfit Muslims urged to delay pilgrimage

JIDDA | Saudi Arabia on Tuesday called on elderly, ill and other unfit Muslims to postpone pilgrimages to Mecca as the kingdom tries to prevent a large-scale spread of swine flu.

About 3 million Muslim pilgrims from more than 160 countries head for the holy city of Mecca in western Saudi Arabia each year in one of the world’s biggest religious gatherings.

The hajj season starts in November this year, while Muslims can also do a minor pilgrimage, the umra, any time of the year.

Health Minister Abdullah al-Rabeeah urged pilgrims to take seasonal influenza vaccines as well as the H1N1 vaccine when it becomes available later this year, before heading to Saudi Arabia.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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