Thursday, November 03, 2011

Another Gaza flotilla

This morning I received an email from my favorite correspondents, US Boat to Gaza, informing the world that boats are now sailing to Gaza. From the press release:
At this moment, two boats are in international waters in the Mediterranean heading to Gaza.  One boat, the Saoirse from Ireland, includes parliamentarians among its passengers.  The other, the Tahrir, carries representatives from Canada, the U.S., Australia, and Palestine.  The U.S. Representative on the Tahrir, Kit Kittredge, was a passenger on the U.S. Boat to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope mission in Athens in July.  A journalist from Democracy Now is on the Tahrir also. Civil society organizations in Gaza await their arrival, and look forward to the delivery of letters collected from thousands of U.S. supporters in the To Gaza With Love campaign.  
It appears to me that this time around, they kept the sailing completely quiet before the boats reached international waters, in order to prevent what happened this summer from happening again, when the boats were basically stuck in Greek ports, under heavy pressure from Israel and the US. (I hope Israeli intelligence knew they were sailing!) Also, the boats sailed from Turkey, which supports the attempt to break the Israeli embargo on Gaza. (See article from Haaretz, which confirms that they kept the plan quiet so they wouldn't be stopped; apparently the Turkish authorities insisted that they send fewer people on the boats than they had originally planned).

Reuters reports:
The Israeli navy will prevent two yachts carrying pro-Palestinian activists which left Turkey on Wednesday from breaching an Israeli blockade and reaching the Gaza Strip, an Israeli military official said. Lieutenant-Colonel Avital Leibovich, speaking to reporters by telephone, would not say how the boats might be stopped, saying only "we will have to assess and see if we are facing violent passengers."

Israel was aware two yachts had set sail carrying Irish, Canadian and U.S. activists, Leibovich said. Describing their journey as a "provocation," she said they were still far from the Israeli and Gazan coast. Israel would offer to unload any aid supplies on board and deliver them to Gaza, Leibovich said. Israel blockades the Gaza coast to prevent the smuggling of weapons to Palestinian gunmen in the territory, she added.
There is, apparently, an unidentified boat following the Canadian one, about which @PalWaves says, "The #Tahrir captain is 99% sure it's Turkish Coast Guard following them, still trailing." I hope not - the worst thing would be a confrontation between the IDF and any part of the Turkish military.

UPDATE: apparently it was *not* the Turkish Coast Guard, and the Israeli Navy intercepted them yesterday (Nov. 4) and led them to Ashdod port. 

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