A flotilla carrying about 40 activists from 15 countries, seeking to challenge Israel’s maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip, was stopped by Israel’s navy.
By: World Israel News Staff
An international flotilla seeking to challenge Israel’s maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip was stopped in Israel’s territorial waters.
Pierre Stambul, co-president of the French Jewish Union for Peace, told AFP that one of the three vessels in the so-called “Freedom Flotilla,” called al-Awda in Arabic (The Return), were scheduled to arrive off Gaza’s shores as early as Sunday.
About 40 activists from 15 countries are on board the vessels, which left the Italian city of Palermo on July 21.
Israel imposed a maritime blockade on Gaza after the Hamas terror organization took control of the Strip in 2007. The blockade is intended to prevent Hamas from importing weapons and materials used to build its terror infrastructure.
As for humanitarian aid, Israel allows its delivery via the port of Ashdod. This blockade has been ruled legal under international law by the UN.
Zaher Birawi, head of the International Committee for Breaking the Siege of Gaza, confirmed that the flotilla had crossed into Egyptian waters and was expected to reach Gaza’s territorial waters on Sunday.
Iran’s Press TV correspondent Richard Sudan, who is on board the flotilla, said in a video posted online that one of the vessels had dropped out with an unspecified “problem” and that two boats were now making their way toward Gaza.
European activists and a Jordanian lawmaker are on board al-Awda, which is supposedly carrying medical aid for Gaza residents, he added.
The Israeli navy was expected to prevent the ships from reaching Gaza as was the case with previous attempts by pro-Palestinian activists.
The activists stressed that they would resist Israel’s expected takeover of the boats in non-violent ways, reports said.
In May, the IDF seized a boat which set out from Gaza in an attempt to break Israel’s blockade.
There have been previous attempts to challenge Israel’s sovereignty.
The most notorious was the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla, in which nine Turkish Islamists were killed after assaulting IDF soldiers who bordered the ship. Ten Israeli Navy commandos were injured as well, one seriously, and some were taken captive during the clash.