New Gaza flotilla preparations 'on track'

2011-04-11 23:05

Athens - A flotilla of ships is preparing to sail to Gaza to mark the first anniversary on May 31 of a deadly Israeli raid against a similar convoy, organisers said on Monday.

"Preparations are on track, adequate conditions for the departure of the ships will be met by the end of May," Vaggelis Pissias, an organiser of the Ship to Gaza mission, told a news conference in Athens.

Dubbed "Freedom Flotilla II", the mission will bring together participants from 50 countries in a bid to break Israel's blockade of Gaza.

Israeli troops raided a previous flotilla last May 31 in a controversial operation that left nine Turkish activists dead and drew international condemnation.

For security reasons, organisers said they would not disclose the number of ships taking part this year or their point of departure, although they have previously said 15 ships could participate, compared with six last year.

Organisers said in a statement that the Israeli government was threatening to attack the new flotilla and they "called on their respective governments, the international community and the United Nations to not bend" in the face of what they called "Israeli terrorism".

This year's flotilla will carry "construction materials and pharmaceutical products" among other goods, Greek activist Dimitris Plionis said.

Speaking to European representatives earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called plans for a new flotilla a "provocation" and said it was in the common interest of Israel and Europe for the flotilla to be stopped.

Netanyahu has also called on UN chief Ban Ki-moon to help stop the flotilla.

Israel imposed its blockade on Gaza in June 2006 and Israeli restrictions on imports and exports were tightened a year later when Hamas seized power in the territory of 1.5 million people, ousting loyalists of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

In the face of international condemnation of its raid on the flotilla, Israel eased some of its restrictions on goods entering and leaving Gaza.

But it maintains tight restrictions on items it says could be used by Hamas, including some building materials, and continues to control Gaza's airspace and sea access.

Read more on:    benjamin netanyahu  |  israel  |  gaza strip  |  gaza ship raid
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