Flotilla faces serious delays, might sail only next week

Technical difficulties, dwindling participation and possible sabotage sap momentum of Freedom Flotilla 2; 350 people expected to participate.

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June 29, 2011 01:05
3 minute read.
The 'Mavi Marmara'

The 'Mavi Marmara' 311 (R). (photo credit: Reuters/Emrah Dalkaya)

 
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Withdrawn insurance deeds, alleged sabotage and Greek bureaucracy have dealt a setback to organizers of Freedom Flotilla 2, who said on Tuesday that departure to the Gaza Strip might be postponed until next week.

In addition, a mere 350 people are expected to participate in the flotilla, as opposed to the 1,500 originally expected by the organizers.

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“There have been many obstacles and complaints. Some boats are not ready and it is not clear when we will sail, although we expect it will be in the coming week,” Ewa Jasiewicz, a leader of the Free Gaza Movement from Poland, told The Jerusalem Post from Greece. “We cannot rule out the possibility that it will be pushed off until the beginning of next week.”

In any case, the Israel Navy is continuing with its preparations to stop the planned flotilla of 10 ships.

On Tuesday, officers from the navy and the air force held a series of meetings to review operational plans, and senior IDF officers have, over the past few days, spoken with foreign military attachés based in Israel as well as with their counterparts from countries whose citizens are participating in the flotilla.

“We want to make sure everyone is aware of what we are doing and why,” a senior officer explained.



The 10 ships expected to participate in the flotilla include the Freedom from Ireland, The Audacity of Hope from the United States, the Tahrir from Canada, the Swedish and Greek Juliano, two Swedish-Greek cargo ships carrying 3,000 tons of supplies, the Italian ship Stefano Chiarini and the French ships Julien Rivoire and Dignity.

The two French vessels left Corsica over the weekend and are making their way to the rendezvous point in the Mediterranean, Jasiewicz said, while other ships are docked in Greece awaiting approval to depart for the Gaza Strip.

On Tuesday, the propeller shaft of the Juliano was found cut, leading organizers to accuse Israel of sabotaging the ship, which will take several days to fix.

“Insurance has been withdrawn, one of the ships was sabotaged and Greek authorities have not given all of the permits,” Jasiewicz said about the delays.

Jasiewicz rejected IDF assertions reported in the Post on Tuesday that intelligence obtained by Israel shows that some of the passengers plan to attack soldiers and are bringing sacks of sulfur on board to pour on the soldiers and then set them on fire.

“We have no record of that. It is a false claim,” she said.

“All of the passengers have been trained in nonviolence and noncompliance tactics. The whole idea is not to have contact with the Israeli army. We are not seeking any violent confrontation... The only violence we have heard of is coming from the Israeli army.”

Chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz said on Tuesday that the flotilla is not meant to bring Gazans humanitarian aid, but rather to delegitimize Israel internationally.

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Gantz, who was speaking at an IDF ceremony honoring reservists, said there is no lack of basic supplies in Gaza, and that they are “importing televisions and plasma screens, and exporting agricultural products to the entire Arab world.”

The IDF was well-equipped and ready to deal with any threat posed by flotilla activists, he said.

Speaking at the same ceremony, Defense Minister Ehud Barak called the flotilla a “provocation,” adding that “there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. If [activists] are sensitive to human suffering, then they need to turn their efforts to freeing [kidnapped soldier] Gilad Schalit or at least allowing him visitors.”

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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