European activists are organizing a new flotilla in solidarity with residents of Gaza. Their boat is expected to leave the Baltic Sea in the coming weeks and pass through several harbors in the Mediterranean for events aimed at raising awareness, before reaching the sealed off Strip. Previous flotillas were intercepted by the Israeli Navy, which is expected to stop this trip too.
Activists posted a clip on YouTube on Wednesday showing the Estelle, a ship they recently bought for the journey to the blockaded Gaza Strip. The ship is currently on its way to Oslo after going through maintenance work in Sweden, and it is due to leave for a two-to-three months’ long voyage to Gaza in the coming weeks to protest against the ongoing Israeli siege on the Strip.
In the clip, former Israeli artist Dror Feiler declares that the activists’ goal is to pressure European states into making Israel end the siege, or at least to have them protest against it. “We will go through different harbors on the way, and also use the voyage as a part of the mission, which means to focus on the situation of the people of Gaza and the people of Palestine,” says Feiler. “So it’s not only the last few days, but also the nearly three months of voyage, and all the time the focus is on Gaza and the siege and the people of Palestine and on the passivity of our governments.” Feiler also says that the ship will be carrying a cargo of solidarity and non-violence.
Feiler is an experienced flotilla participant: He was part of the 2011 Flotilla, which ended abruptly when most of the ships were barred from leaving Greek ports due to diplomatic pressure by Israel. Only one ship made it close to the shores of Gaza, and was captured by the Israeli Navy. Feiler also participated in the now infamous Gaza flotilla in which passengers on the Turkish ship Marvi Marmara forcefully resisted the boarding of their ship by Israeli soldiers. Nine participants died in the incident, which also led to a major diplomatic rift between Israel and Turkey.
After the 2010 flotilla, Israel partially lifted the siege on Gaza, allowing much more freedom to import products to the Strip through checkpoints, but continued to block imports of concrete, iron and gravel. Since 2007 Israel has also stopped all exports from Gaza to Israel and the West Bank, and now allows only a tiny and very limited amount of exports to other countries through Israeli sea ports. Severe restrictions are also placed on residents’ freedom of movement as well as on fishing boats, and there are many reports of navy ships firing in the direction of fishermen and confiscating their boats. You can read more on Israel’s control over Gaza here.
More details on the new flotilla can be found on the organizing group’s website, pictures of the Etelle can be found here, and if you want to follow the ship’s journey for support (or interception) you can check it out here.
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