The Hamas government in the Gaza Strip on Sunday called on Greece to allow a flotilla of aid ships to set sail for the Israeli-blockaded Palestinian territory.

“We regret the position of Greece, which has responded to international pressure to stop the Freedom Flotilla from sailing,” Hamas Foreign Minister Mohamed Awad told a news conference at Gaza's port.

“We call on them to reconsider their ban on the flotilla setting sail and to allow them to leave,” he added.

Several ships participating in the so-called Freedom Flotilla have been forced to remain docked in Greece after local authorities warned that they did not have permission to set sail for Gaza.

Also on Sunday, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat condemned the Middle East (West Asia) diplomatic Quartet after it sought to discourage new flotillas from sailing to Gaza.

“The blockade on Gaza should be immediately lifted, not eased. That is the only appropriate and acceptable message,” said Mr. Erakat in a statement.

“We invite [the Quartet] to focus on resolving the root cause of the conflict, which is the occupation, rather than seeking ways to manage its destructive symptoms, said Mr. Erakat.

The ships, chartered by pro-Palestinian activists, are seeking to break the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip and are loaded with items ranging from aid to letters from supporters.

But the flotilla has been plagued by setbacks, including Greece's refusal to let several ships head out to sea and the discovery that at least two vessels had been damaged.

Activists have accused Israel of sabotaging the damaged ships and putting political pressure on Athens to prevent the vessels from sailing.

Israel has denied any sabotage of the ships, but ministers have expressed satisfaction at the flotilla's difficulties.

The Jewish state warned that it would not allow the ships to break its blockade of the Hamas-run territory.

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