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New flotilla en route to Gaza Strip nearing coast

Update, 10:00 A.M. Friday, Israel time: Flotilla activists report they are some 80 miles from the Gaza Coast. Army Radio reports that Israel Navy ships are already at sea, set to stop the ships from reaching the coastal territory. AFP quotes a flotilla spokesperson who says all ship passengers have pledged not to resist an Israeli naval interception.  Meanwhile, Gazans await the ships at the port.

Amid growing international wrangling over the Palestinian statehood bid, activists with the flotilla movement on Wednesday launched another attempt to sail to the Gaza Strip in a challenge to Israel’s siege of the coastal territory. Dozens of international activists on board the two ships – the Canadian “Tahrir” and the Irish “Saoirse” – reached international waters late Wednesday afternoon.

The flotilla, dubbed “Freedom Waves for Gaza,” is carrying medical aid left over from the summer’s previous flotilla attempt. Organizers say that they expect to reach Gazan waters on Friday afternoon.

A press release stated that among the 27 activists on board the two ships is Majd Kayyal, a Palestinian student from Haifa. The press release quotes him as saying:

Israel has caged Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, prohibiting physical contact between us. We want to break the siege Israel has imposed on our people… The fact that we’re in international waters is already a victory for the movement. Israel’s siege of Gaza is untenable and it’s a moral responsibility to put an end to this injustice.”

At roughly 4 P.M. Israel time, the New York-based independent media outlet Democracy Now!, which has embedded journalists on the Tahrir, tweeted to their more than 125,000 followers that the Canadian ship had set sail from an undisclosed eastern Mediterranean port. An Al Jazeera crew is also aboard the Tahrir.

Due to a misunderstanding of Turkish maritime law, which limits the number of passengers aboard a ship sailing for more than 24 hours, only some one-third of the activists intending to sail actually embarked.

Ehab Lotayef, an organizer on the Canadian ship, was quoted as saying:

The Palestinians living in Gaza want solidarity not charity, and have made it clear to the world that their primary demand is for freedom. While humanitarian aid is helpful, Gazans are still prisoners with no freedom of movement… Israel’s illegal blockade prevents not only imports into Gaza, but exports as well. And the blockade prevents Palestinians from moving freely between Gaza and the West Bank, in violation of fundamental human rights.

+972 reported last week that activist ships had planned to set sail from Turkey this past Sunday. The Free Gaza Movement, a coalition of groups coordinating flotilla initiatives, denied the report. Wednesday’s move could further strain Israel-Turkey relations, which have been on the brink of collapse since an Israeli flotilla raid in May 2010 killed nine Turkish citizens. Recent reports suggested that Turkey intended to provide naval accompaniment for future flotillas, but the two ships that sailed on Wednesday did so alone.

The Tahrir unsuccessfully attempted to sail from Crete last July. The American ship that planned to sail from Athens is still under Greek military impound.

Noa Yachot contributed to this report

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    COMMENTS

    1. Caro

      Yeah because Hamas and Islamic Jihad are so democratic! Trucks go into Gaza everyday – the naval embargo is to prevent grad rockets killing civilians in the Negev.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Gidon

      Really? So where did the recent rockets come from? Did “Scotty” beam the over?
      Did it ever occur to you that just maybe living in an open air prison, with no future may just be a cause of rockets, and not “supply side” bombing?

      Reply to Comment
    3. BOOZ

      This comment has been deleted

      Reply to Comment
    4. BOOZ

      How come I am not surprised that my previous comment has been deleted ?

      Is it forbidden to point out that according to Mr Dana, all and any security initiative from Israel is illegitimate ?

      As somenone recently said, the PC Police is nightstick-happy.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Gabriel

      I’m getting sick of these things. They are not humanitarian missions, they are political missions and to spend millions and millions of dollars to make endless, pointless runs at Gaza seems like a waste of money when so many are suffering (which is always). As for bringing attention to the suffering of Palestinians, there is not a conflict in the world with a fraction of the media attention that the Israeli/Palestinian one gets. Political tourists making a pointless stance where they all get to feel like they made a difference.

      Reply to Comment
    6. BOOZ

      @Gabriel : Exactly my thoughts. Those flotillas carry most of the times stale medecines or outdated equipment. They are all about PR-both for those who sail them and for those who promote them: just showing how ethical and non-violent they are (at the expense of others).

      Reply to Comment
    7. Mikesailor

      @Gabriel and Booz: You guys are hilarious but a perfect example of Israeli blindness. You have unilaterally decided what is ‘good’ for the Gazans? The medicines are supposedly ‘outdated’ so you are actually committing a humanitarian gesture by denying their entry? The flotillas are ‘political tourists’? Give me a break. The ‘security blockade’ is a joke and a bad one at that. Gazza is an open air prison guarded by Israeli with the erstwhile help of both the US and a corrupt Egyptian junta. The flotillas merely point out the hypocrisy involved in the positions of these three countries. Of course, these ships could be inspected prior to leaving port to ensure no weaponry is being carried but that doesn’t suit the Israeli narrative. Instead it wants to maintain total economic and political control over the Gazans to make them an ‘example’of this ‘superior Israeli’ mindset. Why? Your racism is showing.

      Reply to Comment
    8. BOOZ

      1° I never heard of those flotilla promoters offering to have they cargo inspected before sail-off.

      2° I am not so much concerned about what is good for the Gazans as about what is good for the citizens of Sderot, Ashkelon, Ashdod & Beersheba.

      3° Talking about hypocrisy,these flotillas are just a cheap excuse to pay tribute to the Hamas rule in Gaza.

      4° MikeSailor, as I typed hereabove, you are very PC,for you do not hesitate to call Gabriel & myself names like “racist”. This is sheer intimidation.

      Therefore , plese , YOU give me a break.

      Reply to Comment
    9. SHERRI MUNNERLYN

      I see the Flotillas as people engaging in acts of human sacrifice, human beings laying their lives on the line for other human beings hurting and suffering in the Gaza Concentration camp. The ones they seek to help includes children deliberately made stunted in growth by the Siege, children deliberately made anemic by the Siege, 1.6 million Palestinians who exist on 600 calories a day because of the Siege. They risk their lives to seek freedom for others, I cannot think of a greater act for a person to engage in in their lives, than acts like this, acts of sacrifice that do not involve using weapons against others.

      And the UN in their recent report dated September 22, 2011 holds the Blockade is illegal, an act of collective punishment that violates international law.

      “12. The overarching observation of the Special Committee regarding the situation
      in Gaza is that Israel’s blockade, which has been in place for over four years,
      continues to collectively punish the civilian population. The Committee further
      observes that the blockade neither undermines support for the de facto authorities in
      Gaza nor enhances Israel’s security. This collective punishment, which violates
      Israel’s international legal obligations, is having a grave impact on the children of
      Gaza…”

      http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N11/508/53/PDF/N1150853.pdf?OpenElement

      Reply to Comment