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Gaza Activists Still Determined to Sail Despite Greek Ban, Captain's Arrest

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"This story is not finished."

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Organizers of a Gaza-bound flotilla said Sunday they have not abandoned their plans, despite a Greek government ruling that bars vessels from leaving Greek ports for the Palestinian territory.

The campaign to breach Israel's sea blockade of Gaza suffered a major setback when Greece announced its restrictions on Friday, and authorities arrested the captain of a boat carrying American activists that tried to leave Greece without permission.

However, organizers of the flotilla were trying to maintain momentum with planned protests in Athens in the face of increasing calls for them to scrap their campaign. On Saturday, the Middle East Quartet of Mideast mediators — the U.S., U.N., EU and Russia — urged governments to discourage Gaza-bound flotillas that could escalate tension in the region.

Activist Dimitris Plionis said there would be "some action" at the beginning of the week, but he did not specify what the pro-Palestinian activists were planning to do, presumably because Greek authorities might try to thwart their efforts.

"The ban is there and we have already said that we are still considering to sail," Plionis said. "This story is not finished."

Without elaborating, he noted that "ships are free to go to other locations" besides Gaza.

The comment raised the possibility that organizers have debated whether their vessels could declare they are bound for another destination, and then turn toward Gaza once they are in international waters.

Israel says it imposed the blockade in 2007 to stop weapons reaching Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza.

Nine activists on a Turkish boat were killed last year in an Israeli raid on a similar flotilla, and Israel eased its land blockade after an international uproar over the incident. But Israel has pledged to thwart any attempt to reach Gaza by sea, and that aid deliveries can occur through its own established channels.

Activists reject that option, saying Israeli restrictions on the Palestinian territory of 1.5 million amount to a human rights violation.

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