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
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.
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
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.
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.
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