18 April 2009

Free Gaza~Flotilla Convoy Going to Gaza

Bethlehem - Ma’an - The Free Gaza Movement will return to the Strip with a “flotilla” of boats at the end of May carrying generators for hospitals and schools, medical supplies as well as journalists and politicians to observe the situation in the coastal area.

The team said it hoped to have supplies and sponsors organized by the end of April, and hope to set sail for the Gaza Strip between 25 and 31 May. The flotilla will include 5-10 boats from several nations.

Among those set to be on board are Beyond Chutzpah author Norman Finklestein, British journalist and sister in law to Quartet representative Tony Blair Lauren Booth, Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, former US Representative and Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney and several other notable figures.

According to the Free Gaza movement board members and volunteers are traveling on a fundraising mission in the Middle East, and are now in the Gulf where they have “been promised money to help defray the costs of the flotilla organizing.” The group has registered a charity in Cyprus that collects donations.

Organizers say two countries have already pledged supplies for the mission, and are relying on the efforts of the Free Gaza movement to get the essential goods into the Strip.

The Free Gaza movement saw the only successful voyages to the Gaza Strip, effectively breaking the Israeli-imposed siege on the coastal area three separate times. Their last two voyages, however, were cut short. The first boat was rammed by Israeli warships and was forced to take an emergency diversion and sail to Lebanon for safety, and the last voyage, made during the last days of Israel’s war on Gaza, was blocked entirely.

The Free Gaza Mission seeks to challenge Israel’s claim that they no longer occupy the Gaza Strip and that border patrols are for Israeli security rather than Palestinian oppression. Israel has warships stationed off the Gaza coast, and regularly enforces a three to six kilometer fishing limit, though the 2002 Bertini Commitment and the 1993 Oslo Accords say a 12 and 20 nautical mile limit should be observed.