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Will Libya aid ship force more changes to Israel's Gaza blockade?

The Libya-sponsored Almathea is the latest of several attempts to break Israel's Gaza blockade since a fatal raid killed nine pro-Palestinian activists on May 31.

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A week after the Mavi Marmara raid, the MV Rachel Corrie aid ship was intercepted by the Israeli navy and activists were peacefully tugged into the Israeli port of Ashdod. Iran's Revolutionary Guard had offered to accompany an Iranian aid flotilla, but that – along with Lebanese efforts – has yet to come to fruition.

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Some say activists may be wary of provoking Israel.

"With all the negative fallout for Israel, there appears to be some deterrent effect from the ugly things on the Mavi Marmara," says Yossi Alpher, editor of the Palestinian-Israel online opinion forum Bitterlemons.org. "Activists are not so eager to challenge Israel. That's what appears to be the case."

PR game, with Israel forced to play goalie

Though the Mavi Marmara is credited with pushing Israel to drop a ban on most civilian goods entering the Gaza strip, the naval blockade remains in place, and exports and civilians face tight restrictions on leaving Gaza.

On the other hand, Israel's international isolation has grown, and it faces the prospect of a United Nations-sponsored international inquiry into the Turkish flotilla intercept.

Israel says the naval blockade is necessary to prevent an arms build-up by Hamas in Gaza. Critics say it’s punishing Gaza's 1.5 million residents with a humanitarian crisis.

Even though the Libyan effort by the nonprofit Gaddafi International Foundation for Charity Associations is smaller in scope, it still has the potential to focus world attention on Gaza.

"It’s a PR game where the Israeli government is forced into the role of the goalkeeper," says Meir Javedanfar, a Tel Aviv-based expert on the Middle East. "Even though the naval blockade may help Israel's security, it has negative connotations in the press around the world. This is a weak spot, where many countries that want to challenge Israel will try to strike.''

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