Freedom Flotilla almost in sight of Gaza but will Israel allow them in?

By Al Qalam Reporter and News Agencies

South Africa’s Palestinian Solidarity Alliance (PSA) says it is hoping that the three boats of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC) – now on the last leg of their journey to Gaza to challenge the decade-long Israeli blockade – reach their final destination unhindered by Israeli forces.

The boats are only days away from the Gaza shoreline and anxiety and excitement is mounting among the activists and crew on the flotilla.

 In a statement to Al Qalam, the PSA said it was committed to all efforts being undertaken to break the inhumane siege on Gaza.

“The PSA calls for the end of the genocide being perpetrated against the Palestinian people and aims to seek accountability for the actions of both Israel and Egypt.”

Meanwhile, the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) of Turkey – one of the founding members of the coalition – said that the flotilla was now advancing toward the besieged Gaza enclave after stopping at over 15 European ports in the Mediterranean. 

The flotilla of boats dubbed “Al-Awda,” “Palastine” and “Freedom” set sail from Norway on May 15 under the slogan “Right to a Just Future for Palestine”.

The boats are carrying prominent public figures some 45 activists and public figures.

In an update, Journalist Chris Graham on board Al Awda (The Return) said spirits on board was high.

“We’re basically on schedule and spirits are very high on Al Awda. The sea has been pretty rough at times and we’ve had a few technical challenges to deal with as well. The Mediterranean is beautiful, but harsh as well. Everyone on board has been reminded what the trip must be like for refugees traveling across the sea but without the amazing support and coordination provided by the Freedom Flotilla Coalition.

 Zaher Birawi, chairman of the International Committee for Breaking the Siege of Gaza, said the main objective of the activists was to reach Gaza and deliver a message of peace, love and prospect to its people.

 Birawi stressed that the activists were also preparing for the worst case scenario that they may likely be intercepted by Israeli soldiers and detained. 

He added that the Freedom Flotilla Coalition organized courses and sessions for all participants, regarding non-violent resistance and how to deal with such a scenario.

Ensuring their safety and their return to their homelands, Birawi pointed out that both the committee of participants and the legal committee have prepared all the documents and procedures which may be needed in case the Israeli occupation detains the activists on board the flotilla. 

Every year for eight years now, the Freedom Flotilla Coalition has been launching a new campaign to challenge the blockade.

On May 31, 2010, Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish activists in the Mavi Marmara boat convoy in international waters. The convoy, which was part of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, was headed for Gaza to deliver humanitarian aid. Another activist later succumbed to his injuries.

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