Wed, July 21, 2010 | Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
Flotillas and Convoys to the Gaza Strip
Flotillas and Convoys Update
The Libyan aid ship reached the port of El Arish in Egypt on the night of July 14. After a delay caused by discrepancies between the bill of lading and the ship’s cargo, the cargo was unloaded on July 15 (BBC in Arabic and the Agence France-Presse, July 15, 2010). On July 18 the cargo began its journey to the Gaza Strip through the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings (IDF coordinator, July 19, 2010).
Despite statements claiming the ship’s documents indicated that the its original final destination was the port of El Arish (Press TV July 13, 2010; Agence France-Presse July 10, 2010), official sources in Hamas and the ship’s organizers continue claiming that the original destination was the port of Gaza and that the ship changed course as a result of pressure from Israel:
* Hamas issued an official press release claiming that “Israel forced the ship to change its course,” and activists from the Popular Committee to Break the Siege organized a naval show in the port of Gaza to receive the ship (Hamas’ Palestine-info website, July 14, 2010).
* Ismail Haniya, head of the de facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, claimed that the ship managed to continue to the Strip “despite Israeli attempts to damage it beginning from its departure from Greece.” He also called for more convoys, both naval and overland (Safa News Agency, July 18, 2010).
* Jamal al-Khudari, chairman of the Popular Committee to Break the Siege, claimed that the ship had withstood “six Israeli attempts to halt it and use force to prevent it from reaching Gaza,” including “a direct threat to attack it” (Ma’an News Agency, July 15, 2010).
* Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, head of the Libyan charitable society which dispatched the ship, said he was satisfied with the results of the voyage and the understanding he claimed had been reached with Egypt, and through Egypt with Israel. He said his organization had signed “a historic deal with Israel” in return for which the ship had changed course for the port of El Arish, and that according to the “deal” Israel would permit funds totaling $50 million to be transferred from Libya to UNRWA for the rebuilding of the Gaza Strip. He said the agreement included the purchase of building materials and prefabricated houses (Al-Sharq al-Awsat, July 15, 2010).
Other initiatives to send ships and convoys to the Gaza Strip are in the planning stage, as follows:
* Turkey: Bülent Yildirim, chairman of the Turkish Islamist organization IHH, announced that preparations were being made for another “naval and overland convoy” to the Gaza Strip and that alongside the ships “there will be many surprises during the next three months” (Al-Quds TV, July 17, 2010).
The European Campaign to Break the Siege, which participated in the Mavi Marmara flotilla, said that the sailing of Freedom Fleet 2 had been postponed but was expected to leave for the Gaza Strip at the end of September or the beginning of October. The organization claimed that the delay was caused by the many demands of activists from European countries to participate in the flotilla. The organization reported that the number of people asking to participate now stood at 9,000 and that the flotilla would include “an unprecedentedly large representation of media personnel” (Hamas’ Palestine-info website, July 19, 2010).
George Galloway, pro-Hamas former British MP, said that a new naval-overland convoy would set out from various locations around the world on September 12, 2010. He said that the convoy would include 60 ships “and not six” [as there were in the Mavi Marmara flotilla]…[and] 500 vehicles.” Galloway said he hoped the convoys would arrive in the Gaza Strip at the same time from Qatar, Kuwait, Britain and North Africa (Al-Jazeera TV, July 15, 2010).
A group of Jewish activists from Germany said they intended to send a ship to the Gaza Strip at the end of July. They claimed the ship would be small and carry symbolic humanitarian assistance, such as school bags, text books, games, infants’ clothing, outboard motors and fishing nets (Al-Jazeera TV, July 17, 2010).
* The United States: A group calling itself USTOGAZA, made up of civilians and activists from various organizations, announced it would join the European flotilla and sail an American ship called The Audacity of Hope. The group said that it had begun collecting donations for the voyage (Al-Jazeera TV, July 18, 2010).
* Libya: According to the Libyan press, the National Libyan Committee to Support the Palestinian People has finished preparations for dispatching an overland aid convoy to the Gaza Strip. According to Nouri Bin Othman, the committee’s general coordinator, the convoy will comprise 20 trucks carrying medical equipment, clothing, tents, writing materials and foodstuffs. Libyan doctors who volunteered to work in the Gaza Strip will accompany the convoy (Al-Bashir, July 18, 2010).
* Jordan: The participants in the Ansar 1 convoy of 150 include members of trade unions, political activists, economists and clerics, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood. They have spent the past few days in Aqaba because the Egyptian authorities did not permit them to enter the Sinai Peninsula through the port of Nuweiba. The convoy members held a demonstration at the port of Aqaba to protest Egypt’s refusal to let them enter (Suraya website, July 16, 2010).
The Events of the Turkish Flotilla – Continued
In view of the events which took place during the Turkish flotilla and the violence aboard the Mavi Marmara, a group of correspondents said in an announcement that they intended to sue Israel in a number of European countries. The suits will concern equipment taken from the correspondents and not returned, use of credit cards belonging to some of them and the death of a Turkish correspondent. They are demanding that Israel compensate them for damage, that their equipment be returned and that an international enquiry committee be established (Al-Jazeera TV, July 14, 2010). Turkish lawyers announced they would prepare a similar suit against Israel (Al-Quds TV, July 17, 2010).
In response to the German foreign minister’s July 12 decision to outlaw IHH in Germany because of its ties to Hamas, the organization issued a statement to the effect that IHH in Frankfurt had no connection with IHH in Turkey. According to the statement the organization was in fact established in Germany in 1992 but ceased functioning in 1996 after the Turkish IHH was set up. The organization even presented a German court decision handed down on October 17, 2008, testifying to the fact that there was no connection between the organization operating in Germany and the one in Turkey (IHH website, July 17, 2010).
Developments in the Gaza Strip
The Situation at the Crossings
Since Israel began implementing its new crossings policy the number of trucks entering the Gaza Strip has grown by 60%, and work is in progress to increase the Gazans’ capabilities to receive goods on their side of the Kerem Shalom crossing. In recent days 170 trucks a day entered the Gaza Strip through the crossing, half of them carrying food. In addition, trucks entered with equipment from the Turkish and Libyan ships, including gravel for building purposes. On July 19 an advanced CT machine and an X-ray machine were brought into the Gaza Strip, donations from the UN’s World Health Organization, and greenhouse equipment donated by USAID (Israeli coordinator, July 14, 15 and 19, 2010).
The Peace Process
The EU’s Catherine Ashton Visits the Middle East
On July 19 Catherine Ashton, the foreign minister of the European Union, began a three-day visit to the Middle East. Meetings have been arranged with Israeli prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the IDF coordinator for the territories. She has met with Salam Fayyad, prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, and has paid a visit to the Gaza Strip (without meeting representatives of the de facto Hamas administration) and East Jerusalem.
Ashton called for the release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and to allow the Red Cross to visit him. She said she objected to dispatching more flotillas to the Gaza Strip and called for the opening of the crossings, claiming that the so-called siege of the Gaza Strip was “unacceptable and useless.” She also expressed support for the establishment of a Palestinian state and said that the position of the European Union was that the Gaza Strip should be part of a Palestinian state (RTTNEWS, July 19; Wafa News Agency, July 18; EU website, July 18, 2010).