Israel downplayed a Tuesday announcement by radical Scandinavian pro-Palestinian
activists that they were setting sail for Gaza in yet another effort to break
“One ship does not a flotilla make,” Foreign Ministry
spokesman Yigal Palmor said. The ministry was following the development, Palmor
said, but he gave no indication the ministry was particularly worried at this
time that the ship would pick up a great deal of momentum.
“We have the
same goal as the previous flotillas, to put an end to the blockade of Gaza by
challenging the Israeli navy,” said Torstein Dahle, leader of the Norwegian
section of the “Ship to Gaza” group.
“This time around, it will be an
easy task for the Israelis to stop us because we will be so few and strictly
nonviolent,” Dahle said at Oslo’s harbor.
The SV Estelle, a 53- meter
vessel backed mainly by Swedish and Norwegian groups, was scheduled to set sail
from Oslo on Tuesday, and organizers said they hoped several other ships would
join it during its journey before it reaches the waters off Gaza in
In May 2010, naval commandos halted several aid ships trying to
run Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. On one of the ships, the Mavi Marmara
backed by Turkish organization IHH, the commandos were attacked by some of the
Nine Turks were killed in the ensuing clash. The IHH
was banned in Israel in 2008.
A second convoy, planned a year later, did
not sail after a number of countries, including Greece and Cyprus, refused to
let it set sail from their ports.
A diplomatic official said any attempts
to sail for Gaza this year would likely be met with a similar lack of
The position of Cyprus, for instance, is that it does not
want to be a base of operation for the types of organizations putting together
these flotillas, since they do not know who the organizations are, or who is
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Reuters contributed to this report.