Entries in Flotilla (5)


Israel Blocks Activist Ships from Entering Gaza

A Palestinian protester holds a replica of a boat during a weekly demonstration against Israeli settlement expansion, in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on November 4, 2011, the Israeli occupied Palestinian West Bank. ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images(TEL AVIV) -- Two boats carrying pro-Palestinian activists were stopped by the Israeli Navy on Friday as they tried to sail to the Gaza Strip and break Israel’s naval blockade. The white motoryachts were boarded after a radio exchange, and were led to a port in Israel’s southern city of Ashdod. There were no reports of clashes or injuries.

“Following [the activists'] unwillingness to cooperate, and after ignoring calls to divert to the port of Ashdod, the decision was made to board the vessels and lead them there,” Israel’s military said in a statement.

The Canadian boat, the Tahrir, and the Irish boat, Saoirse, called their effort “Freedom Waves,” sailing from Turkey on Wednesday with 27 international activists, journalists and crew on board.

“Israel has caged Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, prohibiting physical contact between us,” Palestinian student Majd Kayyal said in a statement from the Tahrir on Wednesday. “We want to break the siege Israel has imposed on our people.”

Israel responded quickly, saying the navy would block the small flotilla’s attempts to break the blockade around Gaza. Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman Avital Liebovich accused the boats of provocation, even referring to them as “provocatilla” on Twitter.

In addition to the land blockade around Gaza that tightly controls the flow of goods and people, there has been a maritime blockade around Gaza since 2009. Israel argues it is necessary to prevent weapons from being smuggled into Gaza for Hamas and other militant Islamist groups; critics say the blockade violates human rights.

In early September, the United Nations published the Palmer Report, which said the maritime blockade is justifiable under international law.

Activists say they will continue to try to sail to Gaza in the near future “to send the world and public opinion the message that Gaza is still under siege,” Huwaida Arraf from the Free Gaza Movement’s told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper. “The next boats will be launched in an organized manner, wave after wave, under the name Flotilla Waves of Freedom.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Turkey Expels Israel Ambassador Over Flotilla Incident; UN Report Released

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstoc(NEW YORK) -- Diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel deteriorated further on Friday as Turkey expelled Israel's ambassador.

The expulsion comes on the same day as the release of a United Nations report on the May 31, 2010 flotilla incident which left nine pro-Palestinian activists dead. The activists were aboard the Turkish ship, Mavi Marmara which was among a group of six vessels carrying humanitarian supplies to Gaza. The vessel was stopped by Israeli military who fired live rounds into the ship killing the nine activists.

According to BBC News, the U.N. Secretary General's Panel of Inquiry completed the report in July but its release was delayed while the two governments attempted to repair their relationship. One of the recommendations by the U.N. panel was for Israel to pay compensation and issue an apology for the deaths. During discussions with Turkey, Israel agreed to the compensation but refused to issue a full apology. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced that his country was ending its friendship with Israel.

The report, which was leaked to the New York Times, states that, "the flotilla acted recklessly in attempting to breach the naval blockade. The majority of the flotilla participants had no violent intentions, but there exist serious questions about the conduct, true nature and objectives of the flotilla organizers." 

The panel chaired by former New Zealand Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer, however, found Israel's response to be excessive and unacceptable after forensic evidence showed some were shot multiple times and at close range. The panel stated that future humanitarian missions to Gaza should be undertaken after consultation with the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority.

"The secretary general's idea was to help bring these two countries back together again. He deeply regrets the fact that this has not been possible through this report," said deputy UN spokesman Eduardo del Buey, according to BBC News.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


American Flotilla Ship Halted by Greek Coast Guard

Comstock/Thinkstock(ATHENS, Greece) -- A flotilla ship, carrying 36 American passengers along with crewmembers and journalists, was stopped Friday trying to illegally leave a Greek port to sail to the Gaza strip. The ship, called "The Audacity of Hope," was blocked by the Greek coast guard because authorities are still officially looking into its seaworthiness following a complaint by an Israeli group.

The ship is one of 10 trying to form a flotilla to break the Israeli Naval blockade of palestinian Gaza which is controlled by Hamas. Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on Thursday thanked Greece for acting against what he called the "provocation flotilla."

But flotilla organizers say two of the 10 ship were "sabotaged," and accused Israel of  "acts of terrorism."  They say that an Irish ship would have sunk out at sea if they had not caught damage to the propeller so quickly.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Israel Gearing Up to Face Another Gaza-Bound Flotilla?

RONEN ZVULUN/AFP/Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- An estimated 500 activists on 10 ships will try to break Israel's naval blockade of Gaza.  Organizers say they want to protest against the collective punishment of 1.5 million Gazans.  Three dozen Americans were planning to take part in the flotilla on a ship called the Audacity of Hope, but now it's unclear if they will leave the port in Greece.

Greek authorities have put a hold on the ship due to safety questions.  A spokesman for the group is accusing the Greeks of giving in to U.S. and Israeli pressure to stop the sail.

The Obama administration has made no secret of its opposition to the flotilla. The State Department urged the American activists not to participate in the sail, which it said would only increase tensions in the region. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the flotilla was not a necessary or effective way to bring aid to the people of Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said once again at his cabinet meeting this week that the Israeli Navy will stop all ships that try to break the blockade of Gaza.  Ships will be instructed to go to Israel's Ashdod port where their cargo can be inspected to ensure no weapons reach Hamas militants in Gaza.  

Last year the Navy's takeover of the Mavi Marmara left nine Turkish activists dead, but this year Israeli security officials say they don't expect any violent clashes. According to Israeli intelligence reports, no terrorists or terrorist groups will be on board the flotilla, and the Mavi Marmara this year has dropped out of the sail for technical reasons.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


State Department Warns Americans Not to Participate in Gaza Flotilla

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Another "Free Gaza" flotilla is scheduled to depart soon and could arrive as soon as this weekend, with the aim once again of breaking Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza.
In a travel warning Wednesday the State Department said, “U.S. citizens are advised against traveling to Gaza by any means, including via sea.  Previous attempts to enter Gaza by sea have been stopped by Israeli naval vessels and resulted in the injury, death, arrest and deportation of U.S. citizens.  U.S. citizens participating in any effort to reach Gaza by sea should understand that they may face arrest, prosecution and deportation by the Government of Israel.”
A flotilla that took place last year turned deadly when Israeli commandos stormed the ships, resulting in the deaths of nine activists, including one American, on May 31.
The U.S. and other countries have been engaged in intense diplomacy to try and prevent the flotilla from departing. Those efforts have been at least partially effective, as the Turkish government has recently warned activists not to participate.
Still, ships are expected to leave from there and others from Greece. There are reports that 36 Americans plan to take part this year. One boat is called “The Audacity of Hope,” named after President Obama’s memoir. Unlike last year’s flotilla which bore tons of aid for Gaza, this year's organizers are reportedly planning to deliver thousands of letters of support for the Palestinians.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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