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Palestinian, int'l activists stage 'reverse flotilla' to protest IDF Gaza sea blockade
By YAAKOV LAPPIN AND JULIE STEIGERWALD
02/12/2013
Hundreds of activists take part in flotilla; organizers say boats return to Gaza after Israeli ships, planes "make them fear for safety."
 
Hundreds of Palestinian and international activists set out on a “reverse flotilla” from Gaza on Monday attempting to break Israel’s 11 km. naval blockade of the coastal enclave. The flotilla remained within permitted boundaries.

The Israel Navy has prepared for the possibility that the flotilla would challenge the security blockade, which is in place to prevent the smuggling of rockets and missiles into Gaza. In addition, it is to prevent sea-based terror attacks against the Israeli coastline.

Despite the preparations, the flotilla was being viewed by military officials as little more than a media provocation.

Palestinian organizers said their boats turned back to Gaza after the presence of many Israel ships and aircraft made them fear for their safety.

According to the fleet’s organizers, about 300 Palestinian and European activists participated in the event before returning to shore.

The activists aimed to cross the blockade, which has effected Palestinian fishing boats and was put in place after the end of Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012.

Israel eased the blockade somewhat in 2010 after an Israeli commando raid on a ship, the Mavi Marmara that was part of an activist flotilla bent on reaching Gaza, left nine Turks dead and raised an international uproar, but Palestinians say the gestures were not enough.

The activists were demonstrating “to put pressure on Israel to stop its violation against the fishermen” and “against the illegal blockade and against the illegal occupation,” Majed Abusalama, spokesman for the organizing Gaza-based Intifada Youth Coalition told The Jerusalem Post.

We “want to say to everyone that enough is enough,” he said, adding that activists were calling for “resilience and justice” in light of the Palestinian plight against Israel.

Abusalam told the Post that activists were not seeking a so-called third intifada or armed conflict, instead they were seeking to bring light upon the “struggles of the fisherman” affected by the blockade.

Abulsalam stated that his group supported a two-state solution with an independent Palestinian state to be established alongside Israel.

Following Hamas’s takeover of Gaza in 2007, Israel placed a land blockade on the strip.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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