For now, the Audacity of Hope isn't going anywhereImage: picture-alliance/dpa
Anchored in port
July 3, 2011
A year after a flotilla to bring aid to the Gaza Strip ended with Israeli soldiers storming a ship and killing nine activists, organizers have planned another mission. So far, it has failed to make it out of port.
Organizers of a mission to bring aid to the Palestinians say they are determined to launch the flotilla sometime in the coming week despite a series of setbacks.
"Monday will be a day of action where we plan to continue sailing," Adam Shapiro, one of the organizers, told reporters in Athens on Saturday, July 2.
He was speaking after the Greek coastguard turned back the ship carrying mostly American passengers and arrested its captain. John Klusmire, 60, is being held in the port of Piraeus, where he faces charges of trying to leave port without permission and endangering the lives of its passengers.
One of the organizers, Jane Hirschmann, dismissed the accusations.
"This is just a stalling tactic," she said. "This is really intimidation."
Greece had earlier announced its intention to prevent the ships docked in its ports from joining the flotilla out of concern for the safety of the activists.
Accusations of sabotage
Organizers say the "Audacity of Hope" is one of 10 vessels that are set to take part in the flotilla.
They have also reported that two of the ships have been deliberately damaged over the past few days. First the Swedish vessel Juliano was vandalized in Greece, then the Irish ship Saoirse was "sabotaged in a dangerous manner" in the Turkish port of Gocek. Organizers said they had seen video footage that showed the two ships had "remarkably similar" damage to their propellers.
Some activists have accused Israel's Mossad secret service of being behind the damage. Israel denied the allegations.
"These people seem to be living in a world of conspiracies and 'Pirates of the Caribbean'," said Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the foreign ministry in Jerusalem. "It's time someone told them to get back to reality."
Israel has, however, made clear that it will do whatever it can to prevent the ships from reaching Gaza. It has said that it plans to stop any boats that attempt to enter Gaza "with minimal confrontations."
Israeli soldiers prevented a similar flotilla that tried to breach Israel's blockade and reach Gaza last year. Nine Turkish citizens were killed after Israel forces stormed one of the boats.
The quartet weighs in
There appears to be little international support for the organizers' efforts. The Middle East quartet of the European Union, the United Nations, Russia and the United States called on the activists to call off the mission.
"The Quartet strongly urges all those wishing to deliver goods to the people of Gaza to do so through established channels so that their cargo can be inspected and transferred via established land crossings," said a statement issued from United Nations headquarters in New York. "The Quartet recognizes that Israel has legitimate security concerns that must continue to be safeguarded."
Israel tightened its blockade of the Gaza Strip in 2007, after Hamas, an Islamist group that is regarded as a terrorist organization by the West, seized control of the Palestinian territory. It argues that the naval blockade is needed to prevent Hamas from obtaining weapons.
The Palestinians argue that it is illegal and amounts to collective punishment for Gaza's 1.5 million residents.