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Gaza-bound flotilla said planning to depart Turkey in coming days; activists deny plans to sail

Less than six months after an international flotilla failed to break the Gaza blockade, and for the most part failed to get out the door due in part to a strong international pressure campaign launched by Israel and its supporters, another vessel – the “Flotilla of Freedom 2” is said to depart Turkey on Sunday.

Not much has been publicized about this latest effort. Organizers told journalists they were hoping to prevent a repeat of thwarted efforts earlier this year. Still, in hopes of documenting any possible confrontation, select international media have been invited to travel with the vessel as it heads to the besieged Gaza Strip.

Speaking last week, Bulent Yildirim, chairman of one of the groups that had been involved in previous flotillas, the Turkish NGO Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), told journalists that the flotilla “will sail, despite an Israeli embargo.” His deputy, Huseyin Oruc, added that representatives from 22 nongovernmental organizations will also be on-board, along with humanitarian aid for the Palestinian residents of Gaza. Despite those comments, however, an IHH official told +972 on Wednesday that the organization had no knowledge of a flotilla readying to set sail in coming days.

IHH’s deputy chairman, Huseyin Oruc (photo: Roee Ruttenberg)

IHH’s deputy chairman, Huseyin Oruc (photo: Roee Ruttenberg)

Unconfirmed reports suggested the flotilla might be accompanied by vessels from the Turkish navy, a move that would be perceived as a serious provocation by Israel. The two countries in recent years coordinated extensively on military exercises. But following Israel’s deadly raid on the first flotilla in May 2010, which left nine people dead, relations steadily cooled. The government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, re-elected this year, insists that Israel publicly apologize for the incident and compensate the families of the victims, a move Israel has repeatedly rejected.

In recent days, following the deadly earthquake which struck southeastern Turkey, Israel offered aid to assist in the rescue efforts. The gesture was accepted by Turkish President Abdullah Gul on a humanitarian basis. It was perceived in Israel that the move could ease tensions between the two military giants. But whatever diplomatic progress it may achieve, if any, will be tested should another confrontation-at-sea occur.

**** UPDATED 27 OCTOBER 2011 @ 0730GMT ****

The Free Gaza Movement, a coalition of various groups, has told +972 that no flotilla will sail to Gaza on Sunday, and that for now it has not announced plans for another flotilla. The representative added:

All of the boats belonging to these campaigns and more are scattered around the Mediterranean and will some day sail to Gaza. Hopefully it will be to an open Gaza, as indeed Israel no longer has an excuse for maintaining its criminal blockade — Shalit has been released and rockets are not being fired from Gaza.

This response was received before a number of grad rockets landed in an open area near the southern Israel near the city of Ashdod. The Israeli Air Force responded with at least three strikes on the Strip.

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    1. RichardNYC

      Interesting the media isn’t talking about how the earthquake happened in Kurdistan, and maybe that has something to do with government indifference toward the victims.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Jalal

      Why is the act of sending a flotilla to Gaza considered an act of aggression against Israel? Just the thought of that is sickening.
      Israel-Turkey can cooperate and send aid to earthquake stricken cities in Turkey, activists with boats can head on a humanitarian mission to retrieve the right of Palestinians to be free and live in dignity in a journey to besieged Gaza.

      Reply to Comment
    3. RichardNYC

      Because its meant to challenge Israel’s right to self-defense, insofar as that right entitles Israel to take measures to prevent weapons from entering Gaza. That the boat carries aid (which is negligible) is incidental to that purpose. Does that answer your question?

      Reply to Comment
    4. Mikesailor

      The flotilla, if it occurs, has nothing whatsoever to do with Israel’s ‘security’ and all to do wuth Israel’s maintenance of Gaza as the world’s largest prison. The excuse of weapons is once again trotted out by the hasbarists but even they must be sick of defending the indefensible. Why not place Israeli reporters on the boat? Or have the Red Cross or UN inspect the cargo before sailing? There are many ways to ensure weaponry is not carried but the Israelis are never interested in alternatives. They are only interested in exercising power over the defenceless.

      Reply to Comment
    5. dayag

      The flotilla ships are diverted to Ashdod where the cargo is inspected and then trucked to Gaza. It is the flotilla people who aren’t interested in alternatives.
      They just want to end the blockade so that weapons can enter freely to Gaza. That is a recipe for another war and more suffering.

      Reply to Comment
    6. alessandra

      Flotilla is to bring attention to the Gaza situation, to bring all the media on that issue, not to bring specifically relief or goods or anything else. On the Flotilla where Israeli army shot people there were some people of good will for sure, some other looking only for some personal attention. namely an Italian journalist known to be a pro-Palestine militant but also she is considering Israel as the beast or the big evil. actually this very mediocre journalist (who is proudly displaying in her Fb profile pictures of Hamas leaders meeting Iranian leaders as something very positive and fair) had her 15 minutes of fame and played the hero when she came back. this time I hope Israel will not be so criminal to shoot again on the Flotilla and let the militants to reach Gaza. by the way I also hope the Flotilla may choose better people on board…
      ps. this is my humble and personal opinion considering from my Italian point of view.
      Activities like the Flotilla can easily became a tool for some people to get visibility and play the roles of the martirs. Which is something I do not like at all.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Paulo Peres

      You guys just forgot that the whole blockade over Gaza is Illegal, so it’s no just about humanitarian issues. (as it weren’t enough)
      And that after Ashodod, only authorized material from flotilla cargo was sent to Gaza. This means no building materials, tools, cement, wool, clothes, school things or books. nothing but the very basis of sub-existence.

      I won’t comment further than this, guess there’s no need.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Borg

      The Gaza-Egypt border is wide open, so there is no “siege”

      Reply to Comment
    9. David

      “quake-stricken Turkey” … the earthquake struck the least populated, least developed, and least integrated part of Turkey. This is incomparable to quake stricken Haiti, in that the Turkish economy has hardly experienced much fluctuation. However, as Ronald correctly pointed out… who cares if Israel offered aid to Turkey. Turkey is doing what it can to help the quake victims and it should be the responsibility of any nation (with the resources at its disposal) to help at a time like this. However, the occupation and the siege of Gaza are not natural disasters, they are shameful atrocities. They are morally reprehensible and deserve the fullest attention of any state including this so called “quake-stricken Turkey”. Thank g-d this flotilla is being sent, and lets hope for the sake of the flotilla and the people of Gaza that the Turkish military accompanies it.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Idiocity

      Sick of this gaza bullshit. Hypothetically let’s immagine Hamas/clearly terrorists stops targeting civilians, there would not be a need for blockade. Palestinians in the west bank manage to live normal lives, they have their government that at least tries to prevent killing of civilians etc.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Zissa Ramani Facebook

      In a worried world a good deed need not go unnoticed.

      Israel, is an abusive cruel country authoritarian behavior. There wicked deeds need not go unnoticed.

      Those who are on the ship have good deeds and hearts.

      The best to them~

      Reply to Comment
    12. Ben Israel

      Last night they fired from Gaza rockets indiscrimately into populated areas in Israel. Totally off the radar for the “Gaza sypathizers”, even though that is a war crime….simple terrorism. We need to remind these flotilla people that there are two sides to every story.

      Reply to Comment
    13. mya guarnieri

      “Less than six months after an international flotilla failed to break the Gaza blockade, and for the most part failed to get out the door due in part to a strong international pressure campaign launched by Israel and its supporters…”

      i think israel’s “supporters” is a real stretch of the word… speaking as a journalist who was in athens, covering the flotilla, i would say that greece was bullied into preventing the flotilla from leaving.

      here’s what i wrote for maan from athens about the matter: http://www.myaguarnieri.com/2011/06/flotilla-organizers-say-israel-pressuring-greek-government/

      Reply to Comment
    14. Greta Berlin, Co-Founder, The Free Gaza movement

      We’d like to make this very clear, and we’ve said it before. We do NOT sail to Gaza to deliver supplies. We go to bring the attention of the world to the fact that Israel locks the people of Gaza into an open air prison with no freedom of movement. We take in supplies that are forbidden by Israel to the occupied people of Gaza, supplies such as high end medical supplies, cement and PVC pipes. We are a humanitarian mission because the UN has designated that human rights workers are humanitarian workers.

      As far as ‘stopping us’ as Mya says above, Israel and the US leaned on Greece. In fact, Israel outsourced the occupation to Greece because it could. It has not stopped us from sailing and it won’t

      Reply to Comment
    15. Ben Israel

      Greta Berlin-
      I am sure you have noted on a map that Gaza has a border with Egypt. What have you done to get them to open up Gaza for all the imports they want? After all, they are their brother Muslims and Arabs.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Branden

      Border is open? i almost dropped my coffee laughing

      Reply to Comment
    17. mya guarnieri


      where did i say that greece, israel, or the US “stopped” you in my comment? i said that greece was bullied into preventing the flotilla from leaving.


      Reply to Comment
    18. Greta Berlin, Co-Founder, The Free Gaza movement

      Hi Mya. Sorry. You misinterpreted what I wrote. I was agreeing with you that the original article was incorrect about stopping us!! Glad to hear from you and know you are as feisty as ever.

      As far as Egypt opening the borders with Gaza, give me a break Ben Israel. Egypt still keeps the Gaza border closed in compliance with Israel and US wishes. This cruel occupation of Gaza is Israel’s doing and no one else. I’ll say it again.

      Free Gaza’s mission is to open Israel’s ILLEGAL siege on Gaza, a siege that all international organizations say is illegal (and please, don’t quote the Uribe findings to us, they were never told to make a finding on the blockade, and they have no authority to do so). We sail to tell the governments of the world that Israel cannot continue to commit slow motion genocide on the Palestinians in Gaza and in the West Bank.

      Ours is a civilian to civilian initiative, and we are the 21st century Freedom Riders, insisting that Israel has no right to practice collective punishment on a civilian population.

      This occupation is not about Egypt. It’s about Israel

      Reply to Comment
    19. Ben Israel

      Greta Berlin-
      I find it odd that you think Egypt does Israel’s bidding. Israel is hated in Egypt. Where else in the world does a mob attack a foreign country’s embassy like what happened there? What country gives official state honor to the man who hauled down the Israeli flag? Where else do you see most candidates for President promise to downgrade if not cancel the peace agreement with another country? If Egypt has problems with the HAMAS regime in Gaza, how is that Israel’s problem, especially considering how the Egyptian regime quietly allowed HAMAS to arm itself for years and then come to power there (by allowing arms smuggling through the Sinai)? You are simply letting Egypt off the hook because you want to attack Israel, nothing more than that.

      Reply to Comment
    20. STS

      Some of these comments are surreal. The border between Gaza and Egypt has been
      open for months. What “prison?” what “seige?” I think these self declared “heroes”
      cannot stand the possibility that Gaza has free access from Egypt, while getting all it needs in electricity, water, food and medicine through Israel. No matter how the reality changes on the ground, they hold on to the “poor Gaza” “Gaza is a prison” nonsense,
      lest they lose their grand purpose in life. instead of this sanctimonious blather, why don’t you direct your energy to those who really need help – such as the Tibetans and the Kurds?

      Reply to Comment
    21. RichardNYC

      Taking a longer view of the flotilla and other facets of the non-violent campaign against Israel’s sovereignty, it seems likely that this kind of thing will eventually stop. Anti-Israel hardliners will recognize that, like plane hijackings and suicide bombings, flotillas and marches to the border are not that damaging to Israel’s international relationships. They’re giving it a go now, and might continue for years even, but eventually the futility will set in.

      Reply to Comment
    22. aoife

      @ richardnyc, how wrong you are, we will never give up until palestine is free and un-occupied. Israel makes more enemies daily with its outragrous behavior, ethnic cleansing and land grabbing, and all the hasbara propaganda its supporters spin is merely putting lipstick on a pig, how sad for you that the majority of the world can see what israel truly is now. must be awful having to constantly defend the indefensible

      Reply to Comment
    23. Sherri Munnerlyn

      Goods are generally not allowed through the border with Egypt in Rafah, so there still is an illegal siege of Gaza maintained by Israel that needs to be challenged and broken. Would it be preferable to send the needed aid, the items Israel will not allow into Gaza, through the smuggling tunnels?

      Reply to Comment
    24. Sherri Munnerlyn

      Besides this potential Flotilla being discussed here, I believe there is an aid convoy that Galloway is associated with that is trying to get goods into Gaza. Egypt is denying them access to Gaza through Egypt. Does anyone know what is presently happening to that convoy?

      Reply to Comment
    25. Ben Israel

      I strongly suggest you protest against Egypt if you think that Gaza is one gigantic prison or whatever. HAMAS fires rockets at Israel, they don’t fire rockets at Egypt. The Egyptians are brother Muslims and Arabs to the Gazans and all Muslims love one another. Thus, they are the easiest target to try to convince to open the border. I realize it just isn’t as much fun.

      Reply to Comment
    26. Sherri Munnerlyn

      @BEN ISRAEL Galloway’s convoy is in Egypt right now, at least I believe part of it is in the Egyptian vicinity, anyway, and they are dealing with the Egyptians, of the new Egypt, calling for the launch of the convoy from Egypt, desiring to enter Gaza in December, from Egypt. We all will have to wait and see what can be worked out with Egypt between now and then, and how all that works out. Maybe, Egypt will open Rafah for aid to enter Gaza through. They are a sovereign nation,Egypt, they do not have to act as if they were Israel’s minion with respect to Gaza.

      Reply to Comment
    27. Borg

      This comment has been deleted

      Reply to Comment
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