Mon, June 07, 2010 | Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
Arab and Islamic countries and international organizations declare that there will be other aid flotillas to the Gaza Strip, some of which will depart in the near future
1. The aftermath of the Gaza flotilla, the attention it drew from international media, and particularly the violent confrontation on the Mavi Marmara with the ensuing embarrassment for Israel prompted many countries and organizations to declare their intentions to send additional flotillas. The aim of the flotillas is not just bringing aid to the Gaza Strip, but first and foremost to tarnish and embarrass Israel on the international scene, exerting international diplomatic pressure on it to lift the “siege” on the Gaza Strip. Most probably, only part of these declarations and intentions will be translated into actual flotillas.
2. According to Hamas activist Jamal al-Khudari, chairman of the Popular Committee Against the Siege, more than ten flotillas for the Gaza Strip are now being planned in the Arab and Islamic world as well as in other countries. He noted that Israel’s reaction (to the previous flotilla) will only result in additional initiatives. Members of the Hamas de-facto administration’s anti-siege committee even mentioned being aware of intensive preparations worldwide to launch more flotillas to the Gaza Strip (Ma’an, June 4, 2010).
3. Following are some details on the plans to dispatch additional ships:
a. Behind some of the initiatives are NGOs in Arab or Islamic countries, part of them front organizations, which, we believe, will encourage and help launch more flotillas.
b. Behind some of the flotillas are pro-Palestinian and pro-Hamas organizations and individuals in various European countries, mainly Britain. Those organizations were involved in sending previous aid convoys to the Gaza Strip by land and by sea.
c. The purpose of those countries, organizations, and individuals is to make a show of sending humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip and “breaking the siege” in order to embarrass Israel and exert diplomatic and media pressure on it. At the same time, various countries, individuals, and organizations attempt to capitalize on making statements for propaganda.
d. Some organizations, particularly those in Europe, cooperate with each other. In addition, it is our assessment that the various organizations are in touch with the Hamas de-facto administration in the Gaza Strip, which encourages them to keep on trying new political propaganda provocations designed to embarrass Israel.
4. Some announcements made by the various organizations claim their intentions are to launch such flotillas in the near future. Other organizations are planning a large aid flotilla in several months. At this point, we are unable to ascertain the feasibility and validity of those plans.
5. Following is a brief summary of the information we have on declarations and intentions to send additional flotillas, some of them in the near future.
6. Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad blasted the Israeli raid on the flotilla ships, saying it was a sign that Israel lost its self-control. “Thousands of freedom flotillas” across the world will sail out to the Gaza Strip, he added. Speaking at an emergency meeting of the Islamic Conference Organization held on June 3, Iran’s ambassador to the UN, Mohammad Khazaee, called on all the organization members to launch flotillas to Gaza.
7. Iran’s Red Crescent Society announced that a decision to launch two aid ships to the Gaza Strip was made at a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. The ships are set to depart this coming weekend (according to another version, that campaign will include three aid ships and an airplane). Red Crescent official Abdul Rauf Adibzadeh said that one of the ships will be loaded with supplies donated by the Iranian people, and the other will carry relief personnel. He further added that the aid will be delivered to Gaza through Rafah Crossing in Egypt. He called on the people of Iran to log into the flotilla website and volunteer to go to the Gaza Strip. He also published a bank account number for donations (IRNA, June 7, 2010).
The Iranian Red Crescent said on Monday that it will send three aid ships to Gaza in the latest bid to break the blockade imposed on the Palestinian territory by Iran’s archfoe Israel. It will also send a plane carrying 30 tonnes of medical equipment to Egypt for onward delivery to Gaza. The first two ships will head to Gaza in coordination with the Turkish government. Of the two ships, “one will carry 70 aid workers such as nurses and medics and the other will have foodstuffs and medicines,” Adibzadeh was quoted as saying on the state television website. Adibzadeh said the Red Crescent had called for Iranian volunteers to act as relief workers and accompany the first two vessels. The head of the Iranian Red Crescent, Abolhassan Fakhi, told the Fars news agency that 20,000 volunteers had already registered over the past three days.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said such aid ships were symbols of the “protest movement against the blockade… If this symbolic campaign continues, it will result in the surrender of the Zionist regime, which will certainly be one of its biggest defeats,” the state television website quoted him as saying. The secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, urged Gulf countries to follow Iran’s example and send aid ships to Gaza, Fars reported. The decision to send new aid to Gaza comes hot on the heels of a report that Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards had expressed readiness to escort aid flotillas to Gaza.
“If the respected leader of the revolution (supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) gives an order in this regard, the Revolutionary Guards’ naval forces will take a practical step using their capability and equipment to escort flotillas to Gaza,” Khamenei’s aide in the Guards’ naval wing, Ali Shirazi, told the Mehr news agency on Sunday. It was unclear, however, how the Guards would escort the flotillas as their naval wing is largely made up of speed boats and light vessels. [newsyahoo.com, Mon, June 07, 2010]
8. In that context, it was reported that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei considers instructing the Revolutionary Guards to provide military escort to the ships en route to the Gaza Strip. Ali Shirazi, Khamenei’s representative in the Revolutionary Guards, said that the Iranian navy is prepared to escort the Gaza peace flotilla with all its forces and capabilities. He said that if the Supreme Leader gives the instruction, the Revolutionary Guards will do everything in their power to secure the ships, and that it was Iran’s duty to protect the innocent people in the Gaza Strip.
9. Free Palestine Organization and Reporters Without Borders Association, two Lebanese NGOs (front organizations?), announced their decision to launch this weekend an aid ship to the Gaza Strip with 50 journalists and 25 European activists on board, including parliament members. The ship, named Naji al-Ali, will carry humanitarian aid and school supplies (Felesteen al-Yoom, June 5, 2010).
10. A Sudanese organization called Palestine Aid Committee announced it was planning to send an aid ship with medical supplies, iron, and cement to the Gaza Strip (Safa, June 5, 2010). The ship will depart from the Port Sudan harbor after donations from official and private sources are secured. Professor Nasser al-Sayyid, a representative of the Sudanese organization, said that the Sudanese people have to bear the burden of the campaign (Al-Rai al-‘Aam, June 6).
11. According to a single report, Turkey’s PM Tayyip Erdogan is considering the possibility of personally taking part in a flotilla to the Gaza Strip under the escort of Turkish warships. According to the report, Turkish government officials asked him for some time to look into the implications of it (Al-Mustaqbal, June 4, 2010).
12. International pro-Palestinian organizations formerly involved in sending aid convoys to the Gaza Strip, expressed support of the Turkish flotilla and their desire to continue launching such flotillas to break the “siege”. The most prominent of such organizations include:
a. Free Gaza,1 a pro-Palestinian organization which actively participated in the previous flotilla, is now working to arrange another flotilla. Nidal Hejazi, a Free Gaza senior official in Norway, said that the organization is now planning to purchase a ship from Norway to set sail to the Gaza Strip as soon as possible. He said he hoped to organize a flotilla consisting of more than ten ships from other European countries. According to Hejazi, upon returning from Turkey on June 3, they started drawing up the list of people from Norway who will be joining the flotilla, and they hope that the list will be finalized in the coming days (Al-Aqsa TV, June 5, 2010).
b.Viva Palestina2—George Galloway, a pro-Palestinian former British MP with close ties to the Hamas de-facto administration, announced that two parallel convoys will depart for the Gaza Strip, one by sea and the other by land, immediately after the month of Ramadan (which ends on October 12 this year). The convoys, which he described as the biggest in history, will be organized by the Viva Palestina organization and the international community, with the support of the international committee against the siege. He noted that the sea convoy will pass through Mediterranean countries while the land convoy will leave from Britain and move to the Gaza Strip through Europe. Galloway expressed hope that the two convoys will reach the Gaza Strip at the same time. He further added that his intention is to cooperate with Arab governments (including the government of Egypt) regarding that issue and to comply with their demands (Al-Jazeera, June 5, 2010).
c. The European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza (ECESG)3—ECESG activist Rami Abdo said that there are plans to fund yet another flotilla. According to Abdo, there are four ships preparing to set sail to the Gaza Strip, and several more ships which can be purchased have been located. He said that the purpose of the next flotilla will not be simply to deliver humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip but also to break the “siege” imposed on it. Several hundred people will reportedly take part in the flotillas (Al-Resala, June 3, 2010). He further said he believed that the next flotilla will take place “very soon”, since it is likely that the plans will gain momentum from recent events (Sawt al-Aqsa, May 31, 2010).
13. Cooperation between various organizations—there is a great deal of contradictory information on activities to organize a new flotilla called Freedom Fleet 2. According to the information, several organizations (such as Free Gaza and ECESG) are to take part in the flotilla, which is supposed to set sail in one month. For now, it remains unclear how many ships will take part in it, even though the plan is to make it bigger than its predecessor.
14. ECESG founder Iyad al-Saraj said that the convoy will be made up of 15 ships with at least one thousand passengers on board (Radio Sawa, June 5, 2010). Free Gaza spokeswoman Greta Berlin said that her organization has teamed up with ECESG to launch three more ships to the Gaza Strip in September or October 2010. Free Palestine chairman Yasser Kashlak said that the new flotilla to set sail in no more than one month will be the largest campaign to lift the siege ever seen. The new operation will consist of many humanitarian organizations and institutions spearheaded by Free Palestine, ECESG, and Free Gaza (Al-Watan, June 3, 2010).
1 A pro-Palestinian organization which sent its first ships to Gaza in August 2008 to break the “siege”. The purpose of the organization is to increase public awareness of the Gaza Strip “siege” and put pressure on the international community to reevaluate its policy towards Hamas and stop its support of the “Israeli occupation”. The organization has offices in Greece, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, and other countries (www.freegaza.org, June 7, 2010).
2 Pro-Palestinian organization registered as a charitable society in Britain (no. 1129092) whose purpose is to assist the civilian population in the Gaza Strip (www.vivapalestina.org, June 7, 2010). One of the organization’s most notable activists is George Galloway, a pro-Hamas former British MP. On February 25, 2010, George Galloway announced the establishment of a Viva Palestina branch in Beirut, the first ever branch in the Arab world (Al-Thawra, Syria, February 25, 2010).
3 ECESG describes itself as an umbrella organization for European NGOs working for fundamental rights for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip (http://savegaza.eu, June 7, 2010).