Israel intercepts Palestinian boat that carried patients and students

Gaza: Hours after it sailed off the coast of Gaza Strip, Palestinian boat was intercepted by Israel naval forces. The boat was carrying patients, students and injured people who were transferred on Tuesday to Israel’s port Ashdod, said Israel army.

According to Ramadan al-Hayek, one of the organisers of the voyage, hundreds of people boarded over 30 fishing boats in support of the main vessel, said a report by Al-Jazeera. “Fifteen boats attempted to cross more than nine nautical miles (16.7km) but met open fire by Israeli forces. These boats sailed in a show of support and were not aiming to reach Cyprus,” al Hayek added.

Israel said it hit dozens of military targets in Gaza on Tuesday in response to a barrage of mortar and rocket fire from the strip’s Islamist rulers Hamas and allies Islamic Jihad, in the worst flare-up since a 2014 war. Late Tuesday a spokesman for Jihad said a ceasefire agreement had been reached to restore calm, though the Israeli army declined to comment on the claim.

Explosions continued until late Tuesday, with the Israeli army reporting sirens being triggered in a number of locations near the border. Tuesday’s exchange of fire came after weeks of deadly unrest along the border between Israel and the blockaded Palestinian enclave. Three Israeli soldiers were wounded by projectiles fired from Gaza, one moderately and two lightly, said the army. There were no immediate reports of any casualties in the strip.

In a rare joint statement, Hamas and Islamic Jihad declared shared responsibility for the attacks, saying it was in retaliation for Israeli attacks targeting their positions.

AFP inputs