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Monday, May 24, 2010

Freedom Flotilla, the Fleet of Ships in attempt to Break the Siege on Gaza



Assalammualaikum.
Sorry, I'm not going to write much on this.
Just that I've just came to know about another fleet of humanitarian convoy trying to send aids to the Gazans, and I've done some googling.
I'll just post up some of the articles@news I read.
Happy reading!
And may this honorable aid reach Gaza!
Amin.

-From http://www.mideastyouth.com-
by Ahmad H. Aggour

It’s been almost 3 years now ever since the blockade of Gaza had started, from June 2007 when Hamas had seized control of the region. And ever since then, over 1.5 million Gazans have been cut off from all aspects of the outside World, suffocating in a small strip that’s no more than 360 square kilometers big (139 square miles) in a constant state of oppression, brutalization and gradual dehumanization by the Israeli Government in cooperation with the Egyptian Government. Can you imagine living in such a densely populated area?! Take my advice from a person who lives in Cairo; being also densely populated, I assure you it’s not fun, especially when to the rest of the World out there, you’re almost virtually incommunicado.

Then came the war in 2008, Operation ‘Cast Lead’ with the purpose of halting the rocket launches made by Hamas, and lasting for about 3 weeks, with no positive result, “just” the deaths of approximately 1,417 Palestinians, with over 400 women and children, along with the use of illegal weapons of war, e.g. White phosphorus and DIME explosives, that targeted buildings, vehicles and people without discrimination.

Shortly after this event, came the idea of the Gaza Freedom March, triggered by this war, over 1,300 activists from over 40 countries, including myself had converged in Cairo, set out to deliver humanitarian aid to the Gazans. And after weeks of demonstrating and protesting in Cairo, then al-Arish. The Rafah crossing was finally opened and over 150 trucks of food and medicinal supplies got to pass through. It felt good, I felt good I had the opportunity to participate in such an event with the rest of the few Egyptian activists who joined me there as well.

And right now, the Freedom Flotilla sets out to aid Gaza; a group of ships; starting with the MV Rachel Corrie, a cargo ship, that set sail from Ireland are coming from several corners of the Mediterranean Sea to gather in international waters to deliver some 5,000 tons of building and medical supplies to the population under siege in Gaza in what a statement called the “biggest internationally coordinated effort to directly challenge Israeli’s ongoing occupation, aggression, and violence against the Palestinian people.”

Over 600 pro-Palestinian activists from over 40 countries aboard nine ships, coming from the UK, Sweden, Greece, Turkey, and an Algerian cargo ship joining in as well, funded by the Algerian peace movement, all set to meet at Greece, then setting out to attempt and break the siege imposed on Gaza by Israel, which has deprived 1.5 million Palestinians of fuel, food, and other basic necessities.

The Free Gaza Movement has sailed eight missions to Gaza in the past three years, five of them successful. The last three were violently stopped by the Israeli Navy; the boat Dignity was rammed three times and the Spirit of Humanity turned back in January 2009, then it was seized and all that was aboard was arrested.

And how does Israel’s Zionist regime respond this time?

An Israeli flotilla sets off from the shores of Herzliya as a response to the pro-Palestinian convoy with banners showing Gaza rocket fire toward Israel and photos of the captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. Disregarding all the crimes that were committed by the IDF against the Palestinians as if the aid convoy would suddenly change their minds after seeing something like this, as if they’re saying: “All the Gazans deserve this, they’re all terrorists, all responsible for the rockets and the capture of Gilad Shalit”.

The Israeli Government accuses the IHH and the Free Gaza Movement of “supporting terrorism” and serving Hamas; with half the Israeli Navy set to stop the mission; with two naval ships already sailing around the coastal areas of Gaza, the air force on standby and diplomatic pressure being applied. Despite the efforts of Gush Shalom calling on the Israeli Government to allow the aid convoy to reach Gaza, stating that: “The State of Israel has no interest in footage of its navy violently assaulting against peace activists at sea flooding television screens all over the world. It is time to remove the suffocating siege and allow residents of Gaza to have free contact with the outside world, freely operate sea and air ports of their own like any country in the world.

Thank you Gush Shalom!

Such a typical Zionist response from the Israeli Government, the message is quite clear: “We will stop you, and use any force necessary to achieve so” , which shows nothing but how weak the position of Israel is internationally regarding the plight of the Palestinians, I think the World, especially the Jewish people should now start to realize how Nazi-like the Zionist regime has become, and how many of the oppressed have become the oppressors, and just like the World stopped Nazism and the apartheid in South Africa, it should stop Zionism. Let’s help stop another Holocaust from happening, let’s end the ethnic cleansing process and the brutality that’s being shown to Palestinians to help avert another genocide.

Viva Palestine!


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from Ma'an News Agency

Bethlehem - Ma'an - The second ship to join the Freedom Flotilla en route to Gaza left Istanbul Saturday afternoon, joining eight other boats from three countries carrying 10,000 tons of aid for Gaza's residents, supplies embargoed by Israel.

A statement issued by the Freedom Flotilla's organizers said the latest ship to set sail is sponsored by the Turkish humanitarian organization, Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), and will carry 600 passengers to Gaza as part of the "blockade busting" flotilla.

Boats will meet in the Mediterranean, then turn toward Gaza to arrive at its beseiged slice of beachfront by the end of May. Free Gaza Movement’s MV Rachel Corrie is already en route from Ireland and is presently off the coast of Portugal loaded with cement, paper and supplies for school children and medical equipment, the statement said.

John Ging, Head of United Nation's Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the Gaza Strip, said, “We recommend the world send ships to the shores of Gaza, and we believe that Israel would not stop these vessels because the sea is open, and many human rights organizations have been successful in previous similar steps, and proved that breaking the siege on Gaza is possible.”

Earlier Saturday morning, a convoy of Israel boats set sail off the Herziliya coast near Tel Aviv, launching an opposing flotilla displaying large banners of Iran and Turkey and photos of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with equals signs between them. Other posters say Hamas with bloody handprints on them, the street journalism news site Demotix reported.


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from Haaretz.com

Three ships carrying pro-Palestinian activists have set off from Turkey to Gaza on Saturday, as part of the nine-ship 'Freedom Flotilla' convoy, a large attempt by international aid groups to breach the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Meanwhile, an Israeli flotilla has set off from shores of Herzliya as a response to the pro-Palestinian convoy. The banners the Israeli ships carried noted Gazarocket fire toward Israel and displayed photos of captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.

The three ships that set off from Turkey are due to reach Greece, where they will join the other six before heading to Gaza, despite warnings from Israel and instructions from Defense Minister Ehud Barak to the Israeli Navy to intercept the convoy at the Gaza shore.

The organization of Gush Shalom has called on the Israeli government to allow the aid convoy to reach Gaza.

"The State of Israel has no interest in footage of its navy violently assaulting against peace activists at sea flooding television screens all over the world. It is time to remove the suffocating siege and allow residents of Gaza to have free contact with the outside world, freely operate sea and air ports of their own like any country in the world," read a statement by Gush Shalom.


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from Aljazeera.net; The Middle East Blog

Ten thousand tons of cargo, 800 passengers, 50 nationalities, nine vessels - one aim - to break the siege on Gaza.

That's the simple math behind the Freedom Flotilla as its lead vessel was unveiled on Saturday in Istanbul.

At a rally held to bid the ship farewell, organisers challenged Israel's insistence that its navy would not allow this convoy, of much needed humanitarian aid, to reach the Gaza Strip.

As one organiser put it to me: "These ships will only return empty of their cargo, and with the footprints from Gaza's sand".

And from what I've seen from the organisers and supporters, I am inclined to believe her.

There are more than 20 charities partaking in one way or another in this flotilla -activists, humanitarians, politicians from the USA to Indonesia. If Israel were to prevent these people from entering or if it were to harm or detain them, Israeli authorities could very well find themselves embroiled in diplomatic disputes with up to 50 countries.

Furthermore, the sheer resolve and work put in by the organisers of this fleet - over a period spanning back to 2008 - really does make it difficult to believe that they would just turn back to where they came from without reaching their desired destination. Aside from the 10,000 tons of aid, organisers say they're taking up to two months worth of food and supplies for those on board - in case that's how long it takes for Israel to allow them access.

That's 800 people, willing to spend two months at sea, away from their friends, families, and livelihood, so they can deliver aid to people they don't even know.

From Israel's perspective though, it is understandable why it shouldn't allow this humanitarian convoy reach Gaza. Doing so could dramatically change the status quo. For starters, it severely questions Israel's continued and illegal occupation of the Gaza Strip, bringing to light that whilst Israeli troops may have left Gaza, they still control the territory's, air, land and sea entry points - all but suffocating the coastal territory.

Moreover, if this fleet of humanitarians does reach its destination, it could very well set a precedent for others to challenge Israel's illegal occupation, and the next thing you know Israel's navy could be confronted by an armada of charities and humanitarian organisations.

Furthermore, were the Freedom Flotilla to dock in Gaza, Arab governments would be severely embarrassed. After all, if a few hundred people can break the siege and help rebuild Gaza, why can't some of the wealthiest nations and largest armies?

Ultimately Israel is faced with two questions: does it continue its policy of collective punishment and prevent the flotilla from entering Gaza until Gazans succumb to Israeli demands? Or does it allow the aid to enter and attempt to demonstrate to the world that Israel does in fact respect human rights?

Unfortunately neither of these options bode well for the Israelis, option one for the obvious public outcry that will spill out as a result of 800 people stranded in the water. And although option two would be smarter from a public relations perspective, it would be an indirect admission by Israel that its policy of collective punishment and continued siege is flawed, not to mention illegal.

It seems Israel only has a few days left before it is to make up its mind on what could be one of its toughest tests yet. And it is posing these questions that make the Freedom Flotilla so significant.

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