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Gaza flotilla boat sets sail from Greece

June 26, 2015 12:46 P.M. (Updated: June 26, 2015 6:05 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The first boat from the Freedom Flotilla III set sail for Gaza from the Greek island of Crete overnight Thursday, activists said.

Mazin Khalil, head of theEuropean Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza, told Ma'an that 70 rights activists, journalists and politicians are aboard the flotilla, together with a cargo of humanitarian aid, solar panels, and medical aid.

The flotilla organizers have taken the necessary arrangements to prevent a repeat of the deadly Israeli raid of the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship in 2010, which killed 10 civilians, and have notified international institutions and officials of the flotilla's mission.

"Finally, we are aboard the Swedish freedom boat the Marianne, and we are on our way to Gaza," Palestinian member of the Knesset Basel Ghattas announced on his Facebook page before the flotilla left the coast of Crete.

The Marianne of Gothenburg is part of the so-called Freedom Flotilla III -- a convoy of ships carrying pro-Palestinian activists including Ghattas, a former Tunisian president and at least one European lawmaker.

The boat last month sailed from Sweden to waters off Crete, where it was to be joined by a number of other vessels carrying around 70 people, according to the Platform of French NGOs for Palestine.

Another activist on the Marianne, Israeli-born Swede Dror Feiler, told an Arab Israeli radio station that one of the flotilla's ships had been sabotaged by "professionals", and that a propeller had to be fixed before setting off.

"There are dark forces that are trying to stop us," he told Radio Ashams, without elaborating.

Israel's deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely last week called the flotilla "the work of provocateurs whose aim is to blacken Israel's face".

The ministry had been working "through diplomatic channels night and day" to prevent it from reaching Israeli waters, she said.

A statement Friday from the flotilla's media team said its goal was "to highlight the violation of the rights of 1.8 million Palestinians living in the world's largest open-air prison.

A number of flotillas had reached Gaza prior to May 2010, when 10 Turkish activists aboard the Mavi Marmara were killed in the Israeli raid on the six-ship flotilla.

Since then, several ships manned by pro-Palestinian activists have tried to reach the shores of Gaza, but they have all been repelled by the Israeli navy.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday he believed "a flotilla will not help to address the dire situation in Gaza," but reiterated his call on Israel to "lift all closures, with due consideration of Israel's legitimate security concerns."

Aboard the flotilla, according to organisers, were former Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki and Spanish MEP Ana Maria Miranda Paza.

AFP contributed to this report.
Bernard / Suisse
The UN Palmer report confirmed that Israel’s blockade is legal to prevent weapons transfers is legal and appropriate under international law. TheRed Cross and who reported that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, in part because Israel facilitates the weekly shipmentof thousands of tons of aid.
26/06/2015 16:04
Justice / UK
#Bernard/ Suisse.... which world do you live in and would you like to live in one instead? Of course not! When it suits Israel they accept UN reports but when not they claim that UN is biased against Israel. It's time Israeli govt face facts and for the ICC to charge them and punish for
27/06/2015 16:00
Bernard / Suisse
When Israel evacuated the Gaza strip there was no thought of a blockade. the intention was to improve the lives and economy of all Palestinians The blockade wasn’t considered until two years later when Hamas gained control of Gaza in a cruel fratricidal battle against Fatah and Israel.
28/06/2015 10:18
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