Jewish activists set sail for Gaza from Cyprus

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The Irene catamaran, carrying a total of nine passengers and crew members, set sail from the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north of the island because the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south imposed a ban on all-Gaza-bound vessels in May, citing “vital interests.” Before the ban, international activists had used south Cyprus to launch eight boat trips to Gaza over a two-year span.

Cyprus was ethnically split in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a short-lived coup by supporters of union with Greece. Turkish Cypriots declared an independent republic in 1983, but only Turkey, which maintains 35,000 troops there, recognizes it.

Mr. Kuper said that the activists did not seek to stir controversy by leaving from north Cyprus but that “practicalities” necessitated the choice.

The Irene planned to deliver children’s toys, medical equipment, outboard motors for fishing boats and books to Gaza residents.

Mr. Kuper said the voyage is a “symbolic statement” intended to show that not all Jews support Israeli policies toward Palestinians and to underscore what he called Israel’s “illegal, unnecessary and inhumane” blockade of Gaza.

“Jewish communities around the world are not united in support of Israel,” Mr. Kuper said in a telephone interview from London. “Israel’s future peace is coming to terms quickly with the Palestinians.”

Mr. Kuper said the trip was funded entirely by supporters’ donations.

Associated Press writers Matti Friedman in Jerusalem and Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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