Israel Navy ready to intercept two Gaza-bound vessels
Ships left Turkey on Wednesday and are expected off Gaza today to force the blockade. Some 27 activists and journalists as well as supplies of medicines are on board. For a spokesperson for the Free Gaza Movement, the two vessels are the first wave in a series.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Israeli Navy is getting ready to intercept the first two boats of planned ‘Freedom Waves’, designed to break the Gaza blockade. A ship named Tahrir from Canada (pictured) and another, the Saoirse from Ireland, have 27 activists and journalists (12 from Ireland and the rest from the United States, Canada, Morocco and other nations, including a Palestinian), and supplies that include medical drugs and other basic items.
The two ships sailed from Turkey on Wednesday and were set to cross international waters before arriving off Gaza today, weather permitting.
"We want to send the world and public opinion the message that Gaza is still under siege," Huwaida Arraf of the Free Gaza movement said.
The two boats, which were south-west of Cyprus yesterday, will be followed by more. The latter “will be launched in an organised manner, wave after wave,” Arraf said.
The departure of the first wave has raised international concerns given the 31 May precedent when the interception of another ship by the Israeli Navy led to a confrontation between Israeli soldiers and activists that ended in nine deaths and scores of wounded.
The incident caused a crisis in Israeli-Turkish relations. All the dead were Turkish nationals, and in September, Turkey threatened to send warships to escort any aid vessels trying to reach Gaza in defiance of Israel's naval blockade.
But United States State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters US officials had warned Ankara against such a step at the time and were told on Thursday that no Turkish warships would escort the aid vessels.
"We've been clear to them that we think that that would be an extremely bad idea. And they've now reassured us that that is not what they are doing in this case," she said.