Gaza flotilla will go ahead: Organisers

2011-07-04 12:31

Athens - Organisers of a Gaza-bound flotilla said they have not abandoned their plans to breach Israel's sea blockade of the territory despite a Greek government ban on their vessels leaving the country's ports.

The campaign experienced a major setback when Greece announced its restrictions on Friday, and authorities arrested the captain of a boat carrying American activists that tried to leave Greece without permission.

However, co-ordinators of the flotilla were trying to maintain momentum with small protests in Athens in the face of increasing calls for them to scrap their campaign. On Saturday, the Middle East Quartet of Mideast mediators - the US, UN, EU and Russia - urged governments to discourage Gaza-bound flotillas that could escalate tension in the region.

Several protesters from the American vessel briefly protested outside the US embassy before leaving. They had originally planned to stay there overnight. They want Washington to pressure Greece to release their American captain, John Klusmire, and allow them to depart for the Gaza Strip.

The US embassy provided standard consular services to the American citizens in the flotilla "before and after" the interception of their vessel, spokesperson Stuart Smith said.

The Obama administration had warned American activists against participating in the flotilla, saying they might be violating US law because Gaza is run by the militant Hamas group, a US-designated foreign terrorist organisation.

Other locations

Greek activist Dimitris Plionis said there would be "some action" at the beginning of the week, but he did not specify what the pro-Palestinian activists were planning to do, presumably because Greek authorities might try to thwart their efforts.

"The ban is there and we have already said that we are still considering to sail," Plionis said on Sunday. "This story is not finished."

Without elaborating, he noted that "ships are free to go to other locations" besides Gaza.

The comment raised the possibility that organisers have debated whether their vessels could declare they are bound for another destination, and then turn toward Gaza once they are in international waters. The flotilla has planned to carry medicine, construction equipment and other aid to the coastal strip.

Pro-Palestinian groups said hundreds of activists from around the world intend to fly to Israel's airport on Friday to protest the country's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip and other policies. By staging large demonstrations at the airport, Israeli media say the activists plan on disrupting flights. Media reported that already tight security at the airport will be beefed up. Police refused to comment on operational preparations.

The groups that called on Sunday for the protest are based in Europe and the U.S. They include the International Solidarity Movement, a pro-Palestinian group that often sends activists to the West Bank and Gaza.

Flight plan rejected

Israel says it imposed the blockade in 2007 to stop weapons reaching Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza.

Nine activists on a Turkish boat were killed last year in an Israeli raid on a similar flotilla, and Israel eased its land blockade after an international uproar over the incident. But Israel has pledged to thwart any attempt to reach Gaza by sea, and that aid deliveries can occur through its own established channels.

Activists reject that option, saying Israeli restrictions on the Palestinian territory of 1.5 million amount to a human rights violation. Egypt recently lifted its own blockade of Gaza at the Rafah crossing, though cross-border traffic is still slow.

In an acknowledgment of the challenges facing the flotilla, a spokesperson for a Turkish group that dispatched the boat that was raided by Israel in 2010 said it was "not impossible" that the vessels would head to Gaza. Huseyin Oruc of IHH, an Islamic aid group that earlier pulled its boat out of this year's flotilla, spoke to The Associated Press in the Greek capital.

IHH has remained involved in flotilla planning. Israel accuses the group of having terrorist links, an allegation its directors strongly deny. IHH, which operates aid projects in many nations, is not on a US list of terror organisations.

Planners had originally talked of sending 15 vessels with up to 1 500 people in the flotilla this year, though that number has dwindled to several hundred activists and fewer than 10 boats.

In a statement, the Greek Foreign Ministry said it had banned the flotilla from sailing out of concern for "the protection and safety of human life", while noting the need to lift the Gaza blockade and improve humanitarian conditions there.

Greece thanked

"Greece reiterates its willingness and proposes to undertake the task of transporting the humanitarian aid, with Greek vessels or other appropriate means, through the existing channels" in line with a UN request, the ministry said.

Members of the flotilla have accused Greece of succumbing to Israeli pressure to block their plans, which had been held up by administrative delays and legal entanglements prior to the ban on sailing.

Greece, keen to boost international investment and ease its financial crisis, has maintained close relations with Arab countries, but in recent years has forged closer military and economic ties with Israel. The shift came amid a deterioration in the Jewish state's ties with Turkey, Greece's traditional regional rival and a fierce critic of the three-week Gaza offensive launched in late 2008 by the Israeli military.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel singled out Greece last week when he praised a group of foreign countries for helping to block the flotilla. In a speech, he thanked "my friend, the Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou".

On Sunday, Papandreou's office said he had communicated with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who expressed support for the Greek government's proposal to transport the activists' aid to Gaza, which would require Israeli co-operation.

Abbas' Fatah Party and Hamas have been trying to end a four-year-rift that left the Palestinians with two rival governments in the West Bank and Gaza.

Robert Naiman, an American activist, dismissed the Greek offer as an attempt by Greece to deflect criticism over its ban on the flotilla departure.

  • Dannyboy - 2011-07-04 12:52

    Finally, a country with the balls to stand up to these so called 'activists'. Go Greece! Just to let you all know, Israel sends in 4000tonns of aid to Gaza EVERY DAY. The aid flotilla carries around 400 tonnes in total, mostly of medicine that is about to expire. so basically,this is all happening for 10% of the daily aid provided by Israel. And in order make a whole lot of noise. I challenge anyone to walk through Gaza and see for themselves if there really is a 'humanitarian crisis' going on. The amount of new cars on the roads speaks volumes.

      WATCHMAN - 2011-07-04 13:42

      Israel has a right to defend themselves just as any other country does, so Israel stand your ground, even though there are those that are against you there are those that are there for you. VIVA ISRAEL!!!!1

      Patrick - 2011-07-04 13:45

      Eish Fannyboy. Go back to sleep.

      Zanu - 2011-07-04 14:20

      Stupid Activists without a Cause Abbas doesn't support them. The Gazans need to export their products not import soggy crap from a dilapidated boat. Gaza is not wanting for anything that they have to offer. They are just stupid mental cases out to make trouble and no one wants to have anything to do with them, that is with the exception of Irené Patrick daaivark The huntchback - and a few other terrorist sympathisers.

      Joseph - 2011-07-04 14:21

      There is no need for Isreal to give aid to the people of Gaza if there is no blockage.Let the people be free and thats the only solution.Your attempt to suppress free Palestain will not last forever.The people shall be free.This is not about noise but freedom.

      Cornix - 2011-07-04 16:03

      I agree Dannyboy, Watchman and Zanu. The measures put in place by Israel are there for the protection of its civilians, which include Palestinians (as they call themselves). I just don't see why so many people are not able to recognise it. As we say in Afrikaans: "Dit gaan my verstand te bowe".

  • - 2011-07-04 12:56

    Why go when you know you are going to be stopped one way or another. sort out the problem with Israel as to why they have a blockaid!!! all they want is to protect themselves and get a minority to down arms, why do the people in gazy not stand up and be counted.

      daaivark - 2011-07-04 13:04

      Maybe because they get shot at when they do? I believe they have been trying to "stand up and be counted" for many years. No-one seems to be listening.

      Neutedop - 2011-07-04 13:12

      @ Daaivark. Been reading your comments the past few weeks. It is like a child! Give us examples of who got shot when they stood up? All you know of all of this is what you read in the media. Go there, see for yourself, and maybe then you can come back with facts. If you're so paionate, why not go there?

      Zanu - 2011-07-04 14:21

      Face the facts, the Flotilla is flatulence Lots of noise & smell,otherwise useless The Flotilla isn't going anyplace, if the people are really sincere, they can take the merchandise,wrap it in waterproof material, put it in knapsacks then swim to Gaza Those that don't make it, will wind up alongside Osame Bin Ladin, as fish food

  • WATCHMAN - 2011-07-04 13:18

    If they go ahead with it then they are asking for trouble!! Big trouble. They will not win this, God's word is final. Zec 12:3 And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.

  • Patrick - 2011-07-04 13:43

    Fact is; The Flotilla has already done it's job. Millions more despise the nation of israel.

      jabski - 2011-07-04 13:49


      harry1 - 2011-07-04 14:33

      Where do you get your info? Me thinks that Israel has gained a few million supporters because of this provocation.

      jabski - 2011-07-04 15:15 well worth a read for supporters of both sides. pressure is definitely having a massive effect!!!!!!

  • Jaimo - 2011-07-04 13:53

    All this fuss over nothing! Leave Israel alone, Move Palestinians back to where they came from: Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Put pathetic liberals, anti-semites and make believe activists to hard labour - like, road building in the Congo! Use flotilla ships for sight seeing to get some money in for the Greece economy!

      Patrick - 2011-07-04 13:56

      At the same breath, move all the israeli's where they came from, Germany, Poland, Russia. and then we'll have the true Semites left to the land that they own. I like it.

      Zanu - 2011-07-04 14:29

      The Flop-tilla and the Audacity of Dopes... Finally admitting that their PR stunt has nothing to do with "humanitarian aid", but everything to do with the violation of international law, you have to wonder if these people are quite sane.

  • The huntchback - 2011-07-04 13:55

    No matter how much all you pro Israelis curse and swear you will not silence the people of Gaza, The Flotilla without leaving the shores of greece is allready a success it has highlighted to the World once again the Plight of the People of Gaza. I commend the people on that Flotilla they have put their lives at risk for freedom. Israel needs to wake up to the demand of the free world and Lift The illegal Blockade of Gaza

      Patrick - 2011-07-04 14:01

      Excellent huntchback... I did this especially in solidarity with the Flotilla 2's people.

      The huntchback - 2011-07-04 14:14

      excellent excellent excellent video ! Send it to the white house

      Patrick - 2011-07-04 14:18

      I see it has already appeared on Salon Magazine yesterday.... the White house wankers probably read it! hehe

      Zanu - 2011-07-04 14:33

      Reality is lost on the flotilla organizers. The TRUTH is that Gaza doesn't need more imports, and business people and others in Gaza have stated publicly that more exports and not more imports are what is needed. Not all the flotilla activists are stupid so it would seem that the ones who are not, are too conceited to simply say, "We can drop this cause, because it's been superseded by events on the ground.

      Patrick - 2011-07-04 14:49

      You really have had your thinking cap on haven’t you Zanu? Thanks for sharing these really important ideas with us.

      LexLuther - 2011-07-04 16:32

      What about the illegal firing of missiles into Israel DAILY by Hamas, Huntchback? That's fine with you, I suppose? You are a Jew hater who thinks the lives of innocent civilians in Israel must be sacrificed so that Hamas and its supporters can make a political point. Hamas officially wants the destruction of Israel and the genocide of all Jews. They refuse to even recognize Israel as a state. So you would like these murderous thugs (and they kill Christians and Fatah members also - don't forget) to carry on with their genocidal agenda and let Israel accept whatever weapons are sent their by Iran and other supporters of death. Gaza gets thousands of tonnes a day of food, medical supplies, electricity and water and everything else they need from Israel and Egypt, except weapons, but this is not enough for Jew haters like you, Patrick and Paco

      The huntchback - 2011-07-04 22:44

      @lexluther its not the jews we hate, dont fool yourself, its not Hamas we fighting for. We hate Zionism and all that it stands for (even some Jews `the good Jews` hate Zionism ), We not fighting for Hamas We are fighting for the People of palestine. The Free People of the world wants freedom for All and not at the expense of others. So dont try your Israeli proppaganda and shift the attention from the real Bad Guys, Its Israeli Zionism that is a disgrace to Humanity, It is israels Zionist movement you have chosen to Defend and not some innocent Jews !

      The huntchback - 2011-07-04 22:52

  • harry1 - 2011-07-04 14:41

    The Palestines are the Philistines mentioned in the Bible. These people are not the friends of Jews nor of the Arab countries right next to their territories. It is only the rabble-rousers, anarchists and anti-semitics who think they are fighting for a worthy cause. The answer may lie in discussion and compromise from both sides, and no more rockets from Gaza into Israel.

      Patrick - 2011-07-04 14:55

      Oh bugger... I'm a rabid anti-semite, does that preclude my opinion?

      Paco7 - 2011-07-04 15:09

      @Patrick, your comments are ignored coz you an a$$hole ... whether there is a correlation between the 2 will be for your little bigoted brain to decide

      Paco7 - 2011-07-04 15:58

      u aint nothing but a hound dog,stop being blinded by the axis of evil - the israelites

      Paco7 - 2011-07-04 16:06

      yeah and let's not forget those phoenicians either!

      LexLuther - 2011-07-04 16:34

      At Patrick and Paco: What about the illegal firing of missiles into Israel DAILY by Hamas? That's fine with you, I suppose? You are Jew haters who thinks the lives of innocent civilians in Israel must be sacrificed so that Hamas and its supporters can make a political point. Hamas officially wants the destruction of Israel and the genocide of all Jews. They refuse to even recognize Israel as a state. So you would like these murderous thugs (and they kill Christians and Fatah members also - don't forget) to carry on with their genocidal agenda and let Israel accept whatever weapons are sent there by Iran and other supporters of death. Gaza gets thousands of tonnes a day of food, medical supplies, electricity and water and everything else they need from Israel and Egypt, except weapons, but this is not enough for Jew haters like you

      The huntchback - 2011-07-04 22:47

      @lucifer get something else to type or is this all you have to say?

      The huntchback - 2011-07-04 22:52

  • Realist72 - 2011-07-04 16:38

    The flotilla will get nowhere as long as they hang the flag of the anti-Christ... (for the uninformed - It's the one with the crescent moon and star)

  • The huntchback - 2011-07-04 23:17


      The huntchback - 2011-07-04 23:19

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