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ISTANBUL (AP) — An aid ship trying to break the blockade of Gaza could reach Israel's 20-mile (32-kilometer) exclusion zone late Friday, an activist said, but Israel's prime minister has vowed the ship will not reach land.
The dueling comments suggest a potential new clash over Israel's three-year-old blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip — and come only four days after an Israeli commando raid on a larger aid flotilla left nine activists dead.
Greta Berlin, a spokesman for the Free Gaza group, said in Nicosia the 1,200-ton Rachel Corrie is heading directly to Gaza and will not stop in any port on the way. It is trying to deliver hundreds of tons of aid, including wheelchairs, medical supplies and concrete.
By Friday afternoon, the ship was 150 miles (240 kilometers) from the coast of Gaza in international waters, the group said on its website. Irish Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead McGuire and the former head of the U.N. Oil-for-Food program in Iraq, Denis Halliday, were among the 11 passengers on board.
The Irish vessel is named after an American college student crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer while protesting house demolitions in Gaza.
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