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Gaza’s Hamas leader visits aid flotilla ship

Osman Orsal/Reuters

The Hamas prime minister of the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh (left) visited a ship that was targeted by Israeli troops in 2010.

ISTANBUL - The Hamas prime minister of the Gaza Strip has visited a ship docked in Turkey that in 2010 was the target of a deadly raid by Israeli troops seeking to prevent an aid flotilla reaching the Palestinian territory.

The visit yesterday by Ismail Haniyeh was a show of solidarity with the Islamic aid group IHH, which had planned to send the Mavi Marmara vessel with another Gaza flotilla last year but then dropped the plan.

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On the Istanbul dock, Haniyeh denounced the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Israel has lifted restrictions on consumer goods, though it kept a ban on materials like cement and metals that it says could be used by Hamas to build fortifications or aid attacks on Israel.

Haniyeh is on a tour of the Muslim world, his first trip outside the blockaded territory since Hamas took over Gaza in 2007.

Also yesterday, Israeli officials said they hope that a meeting between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators leads to a resumption of peace talks, but Palestinians said they will stand by a demand for a settlement freeze that Israel has refused to accept.

The negotiators are to meet for the first time in more than a year today in the Jordanian capital of Amman. The gathering is at the invitation of King Abdullah of Jordan and is being held within the framework of efforts by the Middle East Quartet - the United States, United Nations, European Union, and Russia - to restart talks.

“If they want to reach an agreement, now is the time,’’ Israel’s deputy prime minister, Dan Meridor, told Army Radio.

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