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Israel threatens to punish journalists for covering Gaza flotilla

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Ariel Schalit/AP/File

(Read caption) The Mavi Marmara ship, the lead boat of a flotilla headed to the Gaza Strip which was stormed by Israeli naval commandos in a predawn confrontation, sails into the port of Ashdod, Israel May 31, 2010. Israel on Sunday, threatened to ban international journalists for up to a decade from the country if they join a flotilla planning to breach the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

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Hundreds of activists are preparing to set sail for Gaza from Greece this week in an effort to break the Israeli embargo on the Palestinian territory despite Israel's warnings that it will not allow the fleet to reach Gaza and will punish journalists who cover the news from the flotilla.

The event comes a little more than a year after nine Turkish activists were killed when Israeli commandos intercepted a flotilla also attempting to reach Gaza. The international uproar that ensued led Israel to ease the blockade on Gaza, and greatly damaged its relationship with its key strategic ally, Turkey.

Israel is eager to avoid another violent confrontation that would increase international pressure, but it is not expected to back down from its commitment to prevent the ships from reaching Gaza. The country began limiting the flow of goods and people in and out of Gaza in 2006 when Hamas militants captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is still in captivity. The embargo was tightened when Hamas took over the territory in 2007.

A warning to foreign journalists

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