French boat 'Juliano' set to sail for Gaza later in the day

Activists accuse Athens of being "deaf" to their appeals; vow to complete mission to Gaza despite Greek coastguard blocking departure of ships.

By REUTERS, JPOST.COM STAFF
July 6, 2011 18:39
2 minute read.
US FLOTILLA ACTIVISTS from ‘The Audacity of Hope’

US FLOTILLA ACTIVISTS from ‘The Audacity of Hope’ 311. (photo credit: Yiorgos Karahalis/Reuters)

 
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Flotilla organizers on Wednesday said the French boat "Juliano" plans to try and set sail to Gaza later in the day, Army Radio reported.

The activists, whose flotilla has been confined to Greek ports, vowed on Tuesday to complete their mission but accused Athens of being deaf to appeals to let their ships depart.

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However, chances that they will reach their destination soon are fading due to the vigilance of the Greek coastguard which has intercepted two of their ships so far and is closely watching the other seven, moored in ports across Greece.

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"We don't know (when we will arrive in Gaza). We are trying to build pressure on the Greek government to allow us to leave for any port. Then once we get out of the Greek ports we can direct the ships where we want," said Adam Shapiro, an activist for the Free Gaza movement.

"We are trying everything we can," he said. "But the government here is deaf."

A French ship which had sailed from Corsica was waiting for the rest of the flotilla in international waters but at one point had passed through a Greek port, organizers said.

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The flotilla, carrying about 350 passengers, was supposed to be taking medicine, food and building materials to Gaza by the end of June, but a priority was to challenge the blockade.

On Friday, the Greek coastguard intercepted the US ship "Audacity of Hope" just a short while after it set sail from Piraeus port, and arrested its captain.

Three days later, armed coastguards boarded the Canadian ship "Tahrir" which set sail from Crete and escorted it back.

The activists say that Tahrir's fuel tank was cracked during the interception and demand that Greek authorities repair it.

In an effort to calm the activists, Greece offered to ferry the aid to Gaza in cooperation with the United Nations.

The activists turned the offer down saying this was "insufficient" as their mission was also about the rights of the Palestinian people and not just about aid.

"We are sorry that there was no response to our offer," Gregory Delavekouras, foreign ministry spokesman told Reuters. "It's still valid."

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