Greek Coast Guard intercepts US Gaza flotilla ship

'Audacity of Hope' organizers say Greek authorities approach ship shortly after leaving port; Greek authorities prohibit all Gaza-bound ships from leaving Greek ports; unclear how moves will affect overall flotilla plans.

July 1, 2011 18:25
1 minute read.
US boat to Gaza flotilla 'Audacity of Hope'

US boat to Gaza flotilla 'Audacity of Hope' 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/John Kolesidis)

The Greek coastguard intercepted a boat carrying US activists soon after they set sail from Greece on Friday to join a pro-Palestinian flotilla to Gaza, one of the activists said.

The boat, dubbed The Audacity of Hope, had just left Perama port, near Piraeus, for the open seas, a Reuters witness said.

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Minutes earlier, organizers said that the ship's passengers were preparing to "non-violently resist any efforts to stop the boat," saying moments later that the boat "is about to set sail," followed by a message saying that the ship had departed. Through the boat's twitter feed, organizers said that a Greek Coast Guard vessel approached The Audacity of Hope as it was pulling away from the dock but then sped away.

A flotilla of boats planning to challenge Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip is expected to sail next week, after repeated delays that activists blame on Israeli sabotage. Israel has denied the accusations.

"We are just here, two miles off Piraeus. We've been stopped by the coastguard, their ship maneuvered in front of us and they are now talking to the captain, they want us to turn around," Ann Wright, one of the activists, told Reuters.

"We are non-violent, we pose no threat," she added, saying that the group was informed of the sailing ban just as it was setting off.

Greek authorities said earlier on Friday that ships bound for Gaza were prohibited from leaving Greek ports.

It was not immediately clear how the boat's departure would affect the overall flotilla plans.

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