Posts Tagged ‘ Flotilla to Gaza ’

Israel intercepts Gaza-bound women’s flotilla

By Andrew V. Pestano

Oct. 6, 2016

JERUSALEM, Oct. 6 (UPI) — Israeli Defense Forces intercepted the all-female, Gaza-bound “Zaytouna” flotilla that sought to break through Israel’s blockade on the Palestinian territory.

Israeli troops on Wednesday boarded the flotilla — dubbed the “Women’s Boat to Gaza” — in which at least 13 female activists hoped to breach the Israeli blockade to Gaza, which Israeli authorities put in place in 2007 citing security reasons.

“In accordance with government directives and after exhausting all diplomatic channels, the Israeli navy redirected the vessel in order to prevent breach of the lawful maritime blockade,” IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said.

No violence was recorded from either side. The women who participated in the flotilla are from Norway, Sweden, Australia, Egypt, Tunisia, Malaysia, Israel, Canada and the United States.

“We all hope that we will break the blockade and celebrate on the shores of Gaza, but in reality, we know that our ships will probably be intercepted by Israeli forces and we will be illegally detained,” Wendy Goldsmith, a Canadian member, told Al Jazeera. “We have set our course to challenge Israel’s illegal blockade and to bring messages of hope to Gaza.”

Israeli officials on Tuesday said there is no siege on Gaza, adding that anyone can send goods to the Gaza Strip but that such goods must pass a regulated security check.

In 2010, at least nine activists were killed in a confrontation with Israeli authorities when six civilian flotillas attempted to breach the blockade. Accounts over what led to the activists’ deaths have been contested by pro-Palestinian organization and Israeli authorities.

Source: United Press International (UPI).


Israeli navy peacefully intercepts Gaza-bound vessel

June 29, 2015

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s navy intercepted a Swedish vessel attempting to breach a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip early Monday and was redirecting it to an Israeli port, the military and the activists said.

The military said that after exhausting all diplomatic efforts, the government ordered it to block the vessel. Israeli naval forces boarded the Marianne ship and searched it in international waters without needing to use any force, the military said.

The ship was carrying about 20 activists, including Israeli Arab lawmaker Basel Ghattas and former Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki. Three other ships that were part of the original flotilla reversed course before encountering the Israeli navy.

The Freedom Flotilla group posted a photo on Twitter apparently showing a group of its activists onboard a ship. It said in the post that Israeli forces intercepted the Marianne and it was currently en route to Ashdod port. The ship was expected to arrive in Ashdod in 12 to 24 hours.

Petros Stergiou, a member of flotilla’s media team in Athens, said the group would continue its acts of protest until the blockade of Gaza was lifted. “Once again, the Israeli state commits an act of state piracy in the Mediterranean Sea,” he said. “The government continues this policy of non-tolerance, which means that it will continue to enforce the collective punishment against the 1.8 million people in Gaza.”

A 2010 Israeli raid against a Gaza-bound flotilla left nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists dead. It sparked international criticism of Israel and delivered a serious blow to its previously close ties with Turkey.

Israel has maintained a blockade of Gaza since Hamas militants took power in 2007. Islamic militants in the coastal strip have fired thousands of rockets toward Israel and have repeatedly tried to smuggle in arms through the sea.

While Israel insists there is no siege, there are severe restrictions on Palestinian movement and trade, with virtually no exports. The international community, including the United Nations, has repeatedly called for an end to the blockade.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the naval blockade of Gaza is in accordance with international law and has been endorsed by a United Nations committee. “This flotilla is nothing but a demonstration of hypocrisy and lies that is only assisting the Hamas terrorist organization and ignores all of the horrors in our region,” he said. “We are not prepared to accept the entry of war material to the terrorist organizations in Gaza as has been done by sea in the past.”

Israel says it transfers about 800 trucks a day into Gaza and recently brought in more than 1.6 million tons of goods. It says it assists in hundreds of humanitarian projects, through international organizations, including the building of hospitals and clinics.

S. African activists to join Gaza Freedom Flotilla

15 August 2014 Friday

A number of South African activists are expected to join the Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC), made up of rights groups from several countries determined to sail to the Gaza Strip in defiance of Israel’s years-long naval blockade on the coastal enclave.

“In South Africa, over 50 people want to take part in the flotilla,” Ismail Moola of the Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA) told Anadolu Agency.

He said they were considering high-profile South African figures for the venture.

Moola could not give names of those who will be going on the boat from South Africa, until they receive full clearance from the ports and also know the size of the boat that they will be using.

“We can’t give you the names until we complete a selection process of who we are taking,” he said.

“We are currently seeking clearance from various ports, including Turkey and Cyprus,” asserted the activist.

He said many people have expressed interest in going to Gaza on the flotilla.

Omar Abdulkadir, a Johannesburg resident, is one of them.

“I am ready to leave my work and family and go to Gaza if selected to be part of the group,” he told AA.

Abdulkadir believes the Palestinians have a “just cause” and is willing to contribute to it.

The FFC, a solidarity movement formed in 2010 with the aim of ending the Israeli siege of Gaza, met this week in Istanbul, Turkey.

There, the group decided to challenge Israel’s naval blockade and take badly needed humanitarian aid to the besieged coastal territory sometime later this year, following more than a month of devastating Israeli attacks.

At least 1959 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed and more than 10,000 injured in Israel’s devastating onslaught.

The Israeli offensive has left a trail of massive material destruction, including thousands of homes, buildings, schools and mosques.

Palestinians and Israelis are now observing a five-day Egypt-brokered ceasefire, which came into effect in the early hours of Thursday.

A key Palestinian demand during indirect talks with Israel in Cairo was the lifting of the siege on Gaza.

Israel has imposed a watertight siege on the Gaza Strip since 2007.

“The blockade must end,” said Moola. “The people of Gaza cannot go on suffering.”

Four years ago, the Israeli navy attacked the Mavi Marmara, the lead ship in a Gaza-bound humanitarian aid flotilla, killing ten activists, including nine Turkish nationals and a Turkish-American citizen.

South Africans have held several protests since Israel began its onslaught on Gaza in early June.

Most of them empathize with the Palestinian struggle for nationhood, having faced similar conditions during South Africa’s apartheid era.

Last week, nearly 200,000 people demonstrated outside the parliament building in Cape Town to demand that their government take “decisive diplomatic action” against the self-proclaimed Jewish state for its ongoing offensive in Gaza.

Source: World Bulletin.


Coalition of activists plans to send new aid flotilla to besieged Gaza


ISTANBUL – A coalition of activists said on Tuesday they would send a flotilla of ships to break Israel’s siege of Gaza by the end of 2014, fours years after a similar campaign ended in a deadly raid by Israeli commandos.

“We plan to send the flotilla during 2014,” the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, which includes activists from at least 10 countries, said in Istanbul.

The statement was made at a joint conference hosted by Turkish relief agency Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), which sponsored the first flotilla of ships carrying aid to Gaza that was raided by Israeli commandos in 2010.

The group did not give a specific date or an estimate on how many vessels or people would participate.

The IHH, which many believe has close ties with the Turkish government, is one of the members of the coalition, which includes groups from Greece, Norway and Sweden.

“It is a reflection of the growing worldwide solidarity with the Palestinian people, from the US to Malaysia, from Scandinavia to South Africa,” the Freedom Flotilla Coalition said.

The boats would sail at the same time from different ports around the world, carrying humanitarian aid as well as Palestinian commercial products, it added.

“We will try to form this flotilla with the aim of showing that international community cannot sit and look away when attacks on civilians and crimes against humanity are committed,” said Canadian activist Ehab Lotayef.

He added that the coalition would not seek support from any government and there would not be any military escort.

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

“We will commit ourselves to non-violence, but as long as the blockade is there, we will sail again and again,” the group said.

In 2010, Israeli commandos stormed the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, the largest ship in a flotilla dispatched by the IHH.

Nine Turks died in the raid and one more died in hospital this year after four years in a coma.

The assault on the ship in international waters sparked widespread condemnation and provoked a major diplomatic crisis between Turkey and Israel.

The flotilla will again include Mavi Marmara, but the initiative is “by no means encouraged by the Turkish government,” the IHH deputy head Durmus Aydin said.

Source: Middle East Online.


French Ship Carries Freedom Flotilla’s “Dignity” to Gaza

By Begoña Astigarraga

ATHENS, Jul 12, 2011 (IPS) – The French vessel Dignité-Al Karama is the only boat from the Freedom Flotilla II actually sailing for Gaza in an attempt to break the Israeli blockade imposed in 2006. At the same time, six Spanish members of the humanitarian aid mission went on hunger strike in the Greek capital.

The hunger strikers, who have occupied the Spanish embassy in Athens since Jul. 5, were traveling on the Spanish ship Gernika (Guernica) that was part of the flotilla carrying 500 activists from 45 different countries, and 5,000 tonnes of aid, bound for the Gaza Strip.

Nearly all the ships have been confined to port in Greece for the last 10 days, except for the Dignité-Al Karama which sailed from the French island of Corsica Jun. 25, evaded the Greek blockade on more than one occasion and remains the only vessel of the flotilla still sailing freely.

With 10 representatives of several delegations of the humanitarian coalition on board, the Dignité received permission Jul. 9 to sail for the island of Rhodes, Manolis Plionis, a member of the Greek delegation of the Freedom Flotilla II – “Stay Human”, confirmed to IPS.

From on board the Dignité, French Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Nicole Kiil-Nielsen told IPS that after having been stopped last week in Ormos Kouremenos, in Crete, they were taken to Sitia by the Greek coast guard and eventually allowed to sail from there.

“We had to stop in Crete to refuel, as we did not have enough fuel to reach Gaza,” Kiil-Nielsen said. “Now, the Dignité is free and we are organizing another group of passengers, probably international, to go on to Gaza.”

Manuel Tapial, coordinator of Rumbo a Gaza (Sailing to Gaza) Spain, told IPS that “the Dignité-Al Karama is heading for Gaza on its own, representing the dignity of the flotilla, and carrying representatives of the international coalition delegations.”

In addition to the crew and MEP Kiil-Nielsen, passengers include Vangelis Pissias, the coordinator of the Greek delegation, Swedish-Israeli musician Dror Feiler and actor Guillermo “Willy” Toledo, representing the Spanish delegation.

Meanwhile, six Rumbo a Gaza activists began a hunger strike at the Spanish embassy in Greece Monday Jul. 11, after medical checks. Two other members of the group participated in the protest from Madrid.

In a communiqué released Monday, the activists said they would fast until “the Spanish government shows some sign that it will intercede (with the Greek authorities) so that the Gernika may sail freely across the Mediterranean.”

The six hunger strikers are among a score of activists who occupied the Spanish embassy in Athens with the declared intent of remaining there until their country’s Foreign Ministry responded to their demands, and until their ship, held by the Greek authorities in Kolymbari, Crete, was released and allowed to go to a safe port or return to Spain.

However, the activists say they have only received an official statement from the Foreign Ministry announcing its decision “not to make any public commitment to the release of the Gernika,” which prompted them to take stronger measures in pursuit of their demands.

In an open letter sent Monday, Tapial upbraided the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party’s (PSOE) prime ministerial candidate Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba: “The government you represent has forsaken us, and our only remaining option is protest action to rescue the Gernika, by right and with dignity.

“Mister Rubalcaba, as leader and candidate of the PSOE, speak out and call for the release of the Gernika, a ship bought with the money of thousands of people throughout Spain who believe that a project like this one is necessary to show effective support for the besieged people of Gaza.

“Listen, commit yourself and take action,” the Rumbo a Gaza coordinator demanded.

The Gernika is still confined to port in Greece, in spite of having resubmitted to the authorities all the necessary documentation for permission to set sail, said Elvira Souto, one of the hunger strikers.

Eight other vessels, including two cargo ships, are still blocked in various Greek ports, while an Irish ship is in a Turkish port undergoing repairs for alleged sabotage suffered two weeks ago.

The crew of the Canadian vessel Tahrir has decided to give up plans to sail to Gaza for the moment; the U.S. ship Audacity of Hope is still in custody in Athens; and the other French boat, the Louise Michel, the Italian vessel Stefano Chiarini, the Freedom for All, the Methimus II and the Gernika are regrouping, ready to form a new flotilla, columnist Eric Verlo wrote in his blog at

In a move to exert further pressure, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman telephoned Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma and persuaded him to withdraw his country’s flag from the Swedish/Greek/Norwegian vessel Juliano, giving the Greek coast guard the opportunity to block the ship in Heraklion.

Greece and Israel are currently carrying out joint military maneuvers, the sixth held in a short space of time.

Israeli ambassador to Spain Raphael Schutz said there is “no humanitarian crisis” or shortage of food and medicine in Gaza. The Freedom Flotilla should be seen “for what it is: a propaganda event intended to build solidarity with a terrorist group that wants to wipe Israel off the map and kill the greatest possible number of Jews and Israelis,” he argued.

Source: Inter-Press Service (IPS).

Israel, Turkey lock horns over flotilla

Sat Jul 9, 2011

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has once again rejected Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s conditions for the normalization of diplomatic relations.

“Israel did not commit any crime,” he said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 1 television on Friday night, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

He made the remarks after Erdogan said earlier on Friday that Israel must apologize for the killing of nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists last year.

On May 31, 2010, Israeli commandos attacked the first Freedom Flotilla in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea, killing nine Turkish citizens on board the Turkish-flagged M.V. Mavi Marmara and injuring about 50 other people who were part of the team on the six-ship convoy.

Israeli troops also forced the ships to dock at an Israeli port and detained all those on board.

During a speech to the Turkish parliament, Erdogan also said Tel Aviv should lift its four-year blockade of Gaza and pay compensation to the victims of the flotilla attack.

However, the Israeli defense minister said he expected the UN inquiry to vindicate Israel’s actions.

“The Palmer commission will say that Israel acted according to international law. The blockade is legal, stopping the ships is legal, the use of force in these circumstances is justified,” Barak said.

On Thursday, an Israeli official said that a UN report on Israel’s flotilla attack would be published on July 27.

Source: PressTV.

Greek court releases American Gaza boat captain

July 05, 2011 — PIRAEUS, Greece (AP) — A Greek court on Tuesday released the American captain of a boat aiming to breach Israel’s blockade of the Gaza strip, four days after arresting him for trying to set sail from Greece without permission.

John Klusmire, the captain of the Audacity of Hope, had attempted to leave a port near Piraeus Friday in defiance of a Greek ban on the flotilla of boats leaving port. He had been in custody since he was arrested, and appeared in court Tuesday handcuffed and under police escort. He still faces trial at a later date.

Greece has banned all boats participating in the Gaza flotilla from leaving port, citing security concerns after a similar flotilla last year was raided by Israeli forces, leaving nine activists on a Turkish boat dead. The Greek foreign ministry has offered to deliver the humanitarian aid the activists want to take to Gaza itself.

Israel says it imposed the blockade in 2007 to stop weapons reaching Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza. Israel eased its land blockade after an international uproar over last year’s raid on the Turkish boat.

Klusmire appeared in court in Piraeus for a two-hour deposition on a felony charge of endangering sea traffic and the lives of passengers, and misdemeanor counts of sailing without a permit and violating port authority orders.

“He has been released and is free to go home,” said one of his lawyers, Manolis Stephanakis, after the hearing. “No trial date has been set and we expect the charges to be dropped. We presented a very strong case and we don’t need to call any more witnesses to testify.”

Flotilla activists who had gathered at the court to show support burst into cheers of celebration. They initially believed Klusmire had been acquitted, but his lawyer later said he had been released while still facing charges.

The captain himself appeared relieved after his deposition, and was cheered on by 30 fellow activists chanting “We love John.” “This is a much better outcome than I anticipated,” he said. Earlier in the day, Greek officials and flotilla activists said three activists connected to another boat carrying mainly Canadians had been arrested over an attempt by that vessel, the Tahrir, to also set sail in defiance of the Greek ban.

David Heap, a spokesman for the Tahrir, identified those detained as Canadians Sandra Ruch and Soha Kneen, and Australian Michael Coleman. The boat tried to leave the southern Greek island of Crete on Monday, but was forced to turn back by Coast Guard vessels.

The Greek Merchant Marine Ministry said one of the Canadians, who was responsible for the boat, was arrested on charges of illegally sailing without permission. The other Canadian national and the Australian were arrested for using kayaks to block a coast guard vessel from setting sail to stop the flotilla boat.

Protesters also took action in the Greek capital, with a small group of activists from a Spanish-run boat entering the Spanish embassy in Athens and starting a sit-in, hanging a Palestinian flag from a balcony and demanding that Spain pressure Greece to let their boat sail.

Manuel Tapial, a spokesman for the Spanish vessel Gernika, said the protesters were peaceful. A statement from the organization in charge of the vessel, Rumbo a Gaza, said protesters were not interfering with the work of embassy staff.

One boat from the flotilla appeared to have evaded attempts to stop all vessels connected to the effort to breach the Israeli blockade. French pro-Palestinian activists said from Paris the Dignite-Al Karama was in international waters and on its way.

Jean-Claude Lefort, a spokesman for the group, told The Associated Press Tuesday that the boat left a port near Athens early Monday with eight activists and two crew members on board. If true, it would be the first flotilla boat to leave Greece.

However, the claim could not be confirmed. Greek authorities said they were looking into the report. Greek activist Dimitris Plionis said during a news conference in Athens that the boat had been in a “safe” area “in this part of the Mediterranean.” He said it was not sailing to Gaza at the moment, but was waiting for other boats from the flotilla to join it.

Christopher Torchia and Elena Becatoros in Athens, and Greg Keller in Paris contributed.

Undefeated, Freedom Flotillas Expand

By Eva Bartlett

GAZA CITY, May 31, 2011 (IPS) – A gleaming new memorial towers in the center of Gaza City’s battered port. Flanked by flags of various nations whose citizens have sailed to the Gaza Strip to highlight the all-out siege on Gaza, the memorial’s inscription bears the names of the Turkish solidarity activists who died one year ago when Israeli commandos firing machine guns air-dropped onto the Freedom Flotilla, killing nine and injuring over 50 of the civilians on board.

On the one-year anniversary of the illegal Israeli attack on and abduction of over 600 civilians on the Freedom Flotilla from international waters, Gaza’s harbor bustles with people and energy: they have come to mourn the dead and to herald the coming boats of Freedom Flotilla Two. Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya addresses the audience, thanking the Turkish activists and government for their continued solidarity with Palestine.

Since Free Gaza boats arrived in 2008 –the first blockade-breaking boats and first boats to dock at Gaza since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the Strip – the boat movement has grown exponentially. Free Gaza successfully docked in Gaza five times, with another four voyages violently thwarted by the Israeli navy.

The December 2008 sailing ended when an Israeli warship rammed a Free Gaza vessel carrying medical supplies, non-violent activists, surgeons and journalists. The February 2009 attempt ended with Israeli soldiers forcibly boarding the ship, beating and abducting the passengers from international waters. A June 2009 sailing was likewise forcibly halted by the Israeli navy, the passengers aboard abducted and deported.

The various vessels have carried non-violent activists, international television and newspaper journalists, European parliamentarians, Jews in solidarity with Palestine, including Holocaust survivors and Israeli activists and journalists, and even Palestinians unable to get out of Gaza for studies in universities abroad and those unable to enter Gaza to re-unite with family.

Israel’s pretext in blocking boats’ passage to and from Gaza is for security reasons, claiming weapons are being smuggled into Gaza. In each instance when a Free Gaza or Flotilla vessel has been forcibly absconded to Israel, only humanitarian supplies were found aboard. Rather than defeating the boat movement, Israel’s aggressions have had the opposite effect.

Vessels from Libya, Malaysia, and a boat carrying Jewish activists have all sailed for, and been blocked by Israeli gunboats from, the Gaza Strip. Two weeks ago, Israeli soldiers fired upon a Malaysian aid ship carrying piping for a sanitation project in Gaza, forcing it to dock in Egyptian waters.

In May 2010, Free Gaza, supported by Turkish humanitarian organization IHH, again sent vessels and activists sailing to the besieged Strip, this time accompanied by the massive Turkish ship the Mavi Marmara. As the six vessels with over 600 passengers in the Freedom Flotilla approached Gaza, Israeli commandos unleashed a barrage of machine-gun fire on the boats still sailing in international waters. Equipped with satellite streaming, the Israeli assault was videoed and broadcast to disbelieving viewers in Gaza and worldwide.

Keven Niesh, 53, a Canadian activist on board the Mavi Marmara, described the killings. “There were several guys who had two neat bullet holes side by side on the side of their head – clearly they were executed,” Neish told Counter Punch in an interview after the Flotilla massacre last year.

Undaunted by last year’s massacre, international activists have organized the Freedom Flotilla 2, due to sail in one month’s time with at least 10 boats and over 1,000 activists. Canadian and U.S. boats will join those of Europe, Turkey, and other nations.

Immediately following the massacre one year ago, Egyptian authorities partially opened the Rafah crossing. In an effort to deflect criticism, Israeli authorities subsequently announced they would ease the siege on Gaza. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)’s Mathilde De Riedmatten, in a May 2011 interview, noted that “the entry of goods into Gaza is also still highly restricted, not only in terms of quantity but also in terms of the particular items allowed.”

More recently, Egyptian authorities announced the continued opening of the Rafah crossing. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), however, notes that this change will not impact on imports, exports or Gaza’s economy. “These procedures will not ease the suffering of the Palestinian civilian population or change the economic situation caused by the strict closure imposed on the Gaza Strip,” a PCHR statement reads.

It calls for “lifting the Israeli closure imposed on the Gaza Strip, opening the crossings for commercial transactions and allowing the freedom of movement of persons, including the movement between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, through the outlets that are controlled by the Israeli occupation forces.”

The siege on Gaza impacts drinking water (95 percent of Gazan water is below the World Health Organization standards), the sanitation system (untreated sewage is pumped into the sea daily for want of storage capabilities), and the agriculture and fishing sectors (farmers and fishermen are shot at on a daily basis by Israeli soldiers). Unemployment and malnutrition levels soar, power outages occur daily, impacting on hospital machinery, and Palestinians continue to live in what more and more outsiders are describing as an “open-air prison”. Renowned classical pianist Anton Kuerti, endorsing the Canadian boat to Gaza, says the siege has rendered Gaza “indistinguishable from a concentration camp.”

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon suggested nations prevent their citizens from sailing, saying governments should “use their influence to discourage such flotilla, which carry the potential to escalate into violent conflict.”

Free Gaza’s attorney Audrey Bomse stated “the flotilla violates no international laws or laws of the sea and so an outright ban on our sailing to Gaza is essentially a statement against the rights of the Palestinian people to control their own ports and lives.”

Turkey has demanded an apology and compensation from Israel to the martyred activists’ families, with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on NTV television warning “Turkey will give the necessary response to any repeated act of provocation by Israel on the high seas.”

As was Free Gaza’s goal, the expanded Flotilla aims to end the illegal siege on Gaza. The Canadian Boat to Gaza (CBG) will “challenge Canadian foreign policy and the uncritical support of Israeli war crimes by the current government.”

CBG’s David Heap says the Freedom Flotilla participants are not intimidated. “Where our governments have failed the Palestinians oaf Gaza, civil society must act instead.”

Source: Inter-Press Service (IPS).

Turkey: Israel should avoid flotilla face-off

May 27, 2011

ANKARA: Turkey’s foreign minister says he hopes Israel will avoid confrontation as a new aid flotilla prepares to depart for the Gaza Strip.

Ahmet Davutoglu said in an interview aired on Ulke TV late Thursday that he believes Israel “has gained sufficient experience” after last year’s Israeli raid on a flotilla that killed eight Turks and one Turkish-American and sparked international outrage. Each side accused the other of starting the violence.

A coalition of pro-Palestinian groups say a flotilla will set sail in the third week of June. Israel has vowed to stop any attempt to breach its sea blockade of Gaza.

A Turkish Islamic aid group said it expects the convoy to be at least twice as big as the one that attempted to reach Gaza last year.

Source: Arab News.

Turkish NGO reiterates plans for second Gaza flotilla

May 20, 2011

Istanbul – The Turkish non-governmental organization that was the main sponsor of an aid flotilla to Gaza last May that ended in the killing of nine pro-Palestinian activists by Israeli forces reiterated its plans on Friday to launch another flotilla in June.

Bulent Yildirim, the chairman of the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedom and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), said the Freedom Flotilla 2 would set sail in the last week of June and again attempt to break the Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Yildirim said the flotilla, which is being organized by the IHH and 21 other groups, would consist of 15 ships with a total of 1,500 activists from more than 100 countries.

‘If you interfere this time, it will be your loss,’ Yildirim said, addressing the government of Israel.

Turkish-Israeli relations have been at rock bottom since Israeli commandos shot eight Turkish citizens and a Turkish-American onboard the Mavi Marmara, one of six ships in the flotilla, in international waters.

Turkey recalled its ambassador to Israel and demanded an official apology and compensation from Israel in response to the attack, which was condemned by many countries.

Israel has refused to make an apology or consider compensation, saying it acted in self-defense.

The IHH had previously announced that it would send a second flotilla on the one-year anniversary of the Mavi Marmara incident but later decided to delay the launch until after Turkish parliamentary elections on June 12.

The United States has warned Turkey that sending another flotilla to the Gaza Strip would not be helpful, Turkey’s semi-official Anatolia Agency reported Thursday.

‘In the year since the last flotilla episode, Israel has changed the humanitarian regime for Gaza, (and) made very clear that there are alternative ways to get humanitarian assistance to Gaza,’ Philip Gordon, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, was quoted as saying.

‘We have asked [the Turkish government] to make clear to any Turkish NGOs that might want to send a ship that they should really find this other path,’ Gordon said at a Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearing Wednesday.

Yildirim criticized the United States’ government’s support for Israel, which he said was isolating itself internationally due to its treatment of the Palestinians.

‘This is just one step in the path towards freedom,’ he said. ‘If you don’t stop this unjustness, the entire Arab Spring will fail,’ Yildirim said.

Source: Monsters and Critics.