Gaza hopes to welcome blockade-busting flotilla

Jon Donnison reports on the flotilla's progress

Preparations are under way in Gaza to receive a convoy of ships that is trying to break Israel's economic blockade of the Palestinian territory.

The ships, carrying up to 10,000 tonnes of aid and human rights activists from around the world, will try to reach Gaza on Sunday.

Israel is adamant it will not allow them into Gaza.

The blockade was tightened in 2007 after the Islamist movement Hamas took power in Gaza.

Over the past decade Hamas has fired thousands of rockets into Israel.

'Cheap stunt'

At the main port in Gaza City Hamas are preparing a welcoming party with marquees and a buffet to greet the 600-odd human rights activists on board the flotilla of ships.

All the signs are, though, that they will not be allowed to set foot on dry land in Gaza.

An Israeli protester in the Israeli city of Ashkelon demanding that the pro-Palestinian flotilla be stopped Israelis have vowed to stop the ships

Israel which still controls Gaza's territorial waters says its Navy is prepared to use limited force to stop the ships.

It says the boats will be diverted to the nearby Israeli city of Ashdod.

There the government has set up a temporary passport control centre where Israel says the activists will be processed before being deported.

Israel has called the flotilla "a cheap political stunt" and the government's press officers have been working hard all week to brief journalists that it is unnecessary.

Israel says it allows 15,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid into Gaza every week.

But the UN says this is less than a quarter of what is needed.

Construction materials are especially scarce and it is not uncommon to see Gazans sifting through rubble to recycle rocks for rebuilding buildings destroyed in last year's major conflict with Israel.

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