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Israel prepares for next ship as world leaders urge caution

JERUSALEM — Israel on Wednesday deported hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists who had been detained after its commando attack Monday on a Gaza aid flotilla and braced for the arrival of at least one more ship attempting to break the Gaza naval blockade.

The MV Rachel Corrie, named for an American activist who was killed in the Gaza Strip in 2003, set off Monday from Malta toward the Gaza Strip. It was expected to arrive in Israel this weekend.

Derek Graham, an activist on board, said they would attempt to break the blockade to honor the memory of the nine people killed in the previous flotilla attempt.

"It's more vital than ever that we continue. If we don't deliver this aid, then those people have died in vain," he told Irish broadcaster RTE.

President Barack Obama and other world leaders urged Israel to ensure there's no recurrence of a commando raid like Monday's.

However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called criticism of Israel's actions "an attack of international hypocrisy" and said Israel would continue to counter attempts to breach the blockade.

"This wasn't a love ship, it was a hate boat," he said. "This was not a peaceful operation, it was a terrorist operation."

Despite demands by friends and critics to end the blockade of Gaza, Netanyahu defended it, saying it had averted possible missile attacks on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Activists from the Free Gaza Movement, who helped organize the flotilla, said a larger group of ships was being assembled to attempt another breach of the Gaza blockade next month.

Israeli naval commandos seized more than 700 activists on six boats as they attempted to reach the Gaza Strip earlier this week.

Seven planes were being used to deport 527 activists to Turkey and Greece, Israeli Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Haddad said. Seven other activists remained in Israeli hospitals for treatment of wounds suffered during the Israeli raid, she said.

France's former top antiterrorism judge said Wednesday that the Turkish Islamic charity behind the flotilla, the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief, had ties to terrorism networks.

Jean-Louis Bruguiere, who led the French judiciary's counterterrorism unit for nearly two decades, didn't indicate whether the foundation now has terror ties but said it did when he investigated it in the late 1990s.

The foundation vehemently denies ties to radical groups. It is not among some 45 groups listed as terrorists by the U.S. State Department.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Israel prepares for next ship as world leaders urge caution 06/03/10 [Last modified: Thursday, June 3, 2010 12:26am]

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