JERUSALEM – Pro-Palestinian activists are sending another ship to try and breach Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, a day after nine people were killed in an Israeli commando raid on boats attempting to enter Gaza.

Russia on Tuesday joined the European Union in demanding that Israel open its borders into the Gaza Strip. Egypt, which shut its frontier with Gaza after the Islamic Hamas movement seized full control of the area in 2007, said it will allow medical and aid shipments into the enclave.

In Gaza on Tuesday, Israeli forces killed two Palestinians who tried to infiltrate into Israel and another three who attempted to fire a rocket.

Israel says it needs to control Gaza’s borders or else Hamas will smuggle in material to make rockets and attack its territory. Palestinians, backed by the United Nations and human rights groups, say the restrictions on food imports and construction materials have created a humanitarian crisis.

“We conduct a dialogue with countries about the sanctions that apply on Gaza and we’re open to suggestions, though obviously the naval blockage must remain in place as long as we know that Iran, Syria and Hezbollah will try to bring in deadly missiles that will be shot at Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev, said Tuesday.

Israel is holding 634 people who were taken from the boats, Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Haddad said. Forty-five others signed statements waiving their right to a court hearing and were deported immediately.

The detainees were taken to a prison in the southern city of Beersheba to await deportation hearings, Haddad said. The majority of them are from Turkey while others are from countries including Britain, the U.S., Greece, Sweden, Norway, Morocco, Kuwait and Lebanon.

“This disaster with the Israeli commandos has just made us more determined to reach Gaza,” said Audrey Bomse, a spokeswoman for the Free Gaza Movement, one of the flotilla’s organizers.

The MV Rachel Corrie, named after an American pro-Palestinian activist killed in 2003 by an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza, lagged behind the original flotilla because of mechanical problems and should get to the waters near Gaza by the end of this week, she said.

Russia and the European Union called for the “immediate opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and people to and from Gaza,” according to a joint statement. The United Nations Security Council on Tuesday condemned “acts which resulted” in the deaths while Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Israeli raid was an act of “despicable recklessness.”

Egypt will open its Rafah border crossing to allow medical and humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, state-run Nile News television reported Tesday. Egyptian authorities said the border will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. until further notice, Hamas Interior Ministry spokesman Ihab al-Ghussein said in an e-mailed statement.

Though Egypt supports Palestinian independence, it opposes Hamas, which wants to create an Islamic state.


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