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Former Tunisia president to take part in Freedom Flotilla

March 31, 2015 2:20 P.M. (Updated: April 1, 2015 10:09 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Former Tunisian President Muncef al-Marzouki will take part in the third "Freedom Flotilla" attempting to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza, the Freedom Flotilla Coalition said in a statement Monday.

Marzouki reportedly gave the movement his full support at a World Social Forum in Tunis last week, and confirmed that he would be on board of one of the "Freedom Flotilla III" ships.

FFC hopes the flotilla will sail "within the first half of 2015, with at least three ships."

The statement added: "The humanitarian situation in Gaza is more critical than ever and is worsening by the day. Media apathy and inaction by most governments puts the burden on civil society organizations, as ourselves, to take the lead in challenging the blockade.

"Our flotillas will continue to sail until the illegal blockade of Gaza is permanently lifted."

Chairman of the Palestinian Forum in Britain Ziad al-Aloul said that there would be a range of political, religious, economic and public figures participating in the flotilla in addition to Marzouki.

Muncef al-Markouzi, who served as Tunisian president from 2011 to 2014, has a long history as a human rights activist, and has been internationally recognized for his work overseeing Tunisia's democratic transition.

Gaza's former prime minister Ismail Haniyeh last year telephoned Marzouki to congratulate him on Tunisia's constitution, widely seen as a model for the region.

The flotilla is the third of its kind since 2010, when the first Freedom Flotilla was brutally attacked by Israel naval forces, who killed nine activists on board the ships.

The incident, which took place in international waters, sparked international outcry.

A second flotilla planned for 2011 was unable to reach Gaza after Greek authorities prevented the ships from leaving Athens.

Gaza has been under a crippling Israeli-administered military blockade since 2007.

Conditions in the coastal enclave have deteriorated sharply following last summer's 50-day Israeli assault, which left more than 2,200 Palestinians dead and around 100,000 internally displaced.

A United Nations Relief and Works Agency statement released earlier this month said: "In Gaza, the effects of the occupation, blockade and recurring military campaigns have devastated not only Palestine refugee homes, lives and income, but also hope for a secure and dignified future."

Another UNRWA report said: "Gaza and its people are becoming more isolated; families fear and worry that in addition to the devastated economy and the stalled political environment, the future of their children is also under siege."
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