Published: may 18, 2010; Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.
On May 14 the MV Rachel Corrie, a cargo ship, set sail from Ireland on its way to the Mediterranean, where it will join ships from Turkey and Greece and sail to the Gaza Strip (Free Gaza website, May 14, 2010). It is the first ship of the so-called “Freedom Flotilla” planned for the Gaza Strip, and was purchased by the Free Gaza organization from Irish customs. It is expected to reach Greece in approximately ten days (Al-Ayyam, May 13, 2010).
Ziyad al-Aloul, spokesman for the Turkish organization IHH, said that the flotilla had been joined by an Algerian cargo ship whose purchase was funded by the Algerian peace movement, bringing the number of ships sailing to the Gaza Strip to nine (Hamas’ Palestine-info website, May 16, 2010). Rami Abdo, a member of the European Committee to Lift the Siege headquartered in Brussels, said that the committee would call one of the ships “The Eight Thousand,” for the 8,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. It was, he said, part of the committee’s campaign to make 2010 “the year of prisoners jailed by the Zionist occupation” (Quds Press, May 16, 2010).
Groups involved in the flotilla are examining ways to make it difficult for Israel to prevent the ships from arriving in the Gaza Strip. Activists from Greece and Turkey requested that the ships and passengers be examined at every port of exit to ensure they were not security risks to Israel (Free Gaza website, May 14, 2010). A spokesman for IHH said that Israel’s objection to the flotilla was “aggression and piracy, and that Israel would be responsible for it.” He warned that the ships would be carrying senior figures from the Turkish and European governments, heads of institutions, media personnel, artists and human rights activists. He also said that activists on the Swedish ship, along with Mehmet Kaplan, a member of the Swedish parliament, had asked to meet with the Swedish foreign minister to discuss steps which could be taken by the Swedish government and the European Union to protect the convoy (Hamas’ Palestine-info website, May 15, 2010).
Jamal al-Khudari, chairman of Hamas’ “popular committee against the siege,” said that reports in the Israeli media about air force and navy training exercises to prevent the ships from arriving in the Gaza Strip were nothing more that “media warfare,” and intended to dissuade the pro-Palestinian activists from carrying out their “humanitarian mission.” He said that any damage to the ships would mean a confrontation with the forty countries whose activists were on board (Al-Ayyam, May 13, 2010). Al-Khudari added that the ship contains several figures and activists in addition to 1200 Tons of aid materials such as cement, paper, medical equipment, school supplies and several other materials. [IMEMC News, may 15, 2010.]
Hamas has praised the Turks for being in the front line of the struggle against Israel’s intention to prevent the ships from reaching the Gazan shore. Prominent has been the involvement of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan:
1. He publicly supported breaking the blockade of the Gaza Strip, saying that it was Turkey’s top priority (Free Gaza website, May 14, 2010). He also met with flotilla’s representatives (IHH website, May 15, 2010).
2. A group of NGO heads from Britain and France recently returned from a visit of Istanbul where they met Erdogan. The objective of the visit was to give them an opportunity to express their concern over the situation in the Gaza Strip and to ask Turkey to be more active regarding the issue (Website of IHRC, a pro-Iranian group, May 14, 2010).
Israel said it will not allow solidarity ships to reach the Gaza coast while media reports indicated that the Israeli Navy was ordered to prevent the humanitarian ships from reaching Gaza, even if this means using military force against the nonviolent ships and activists. [IMEMC News, may 15, 2010.]
The movement stated that Israel threats and intimidation will not stop the ships and added that “The Freedom Flotilla is acting in line with universal principals of human rights and justice in defying a blockade identified as illegal by the UN and other humanitarian organization”. [IMEMC News, may 15, 2010.]
The new wave of solidarity ships are organized by the international coalition that includes the Free Gaza Movement, the Turkish Humanitarian Aid Foundation, the European Committee Against the Siege and several Malaysian, Greek and Irish institutions. [IMEMC News, may 15, 2010.]