'Peaceful' Swedish flotilla sets sail to Gaza Strip

The Estelle leaves from Italy carrying human rights activists, humanitarian aid in an attempt to break Israel's Gaza blockade.

By JTA, JPOST.COM STAFF
October 7, 2012 13:25
2 minute read.
Estelle Ship heading for Gaza

Estelle Ship 370. (photo credit: Screenshot)

 
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A Swedish ship carrying human rights activists left from Italy to attempt to break Israel's naval blockade of Gaza on Saturday.

“Leaving Italy on the ship, Estelle, will be 15 to 17 people. It sends a message of nonviolence,” said Mattias Gardell, a spokesperson for the group.

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The Estelle, carrying 17 activists from countries including Canada, Norway, Sweden, Israel and the United States, left from the port at Naples, Italy on Saturday. The vessel, which measures 173 feet long, reportedly is carrying humanitarian goods.

It will take about two weeks to reach Gaza's territorial waters, according to AFP.

The Navy is preparing to intercept the latest Gaza-bound ship seeking to break the security naval blockade around the Strip.

An IDF source confirmed that the Navy has carried out general preparations for future ships filled with activists. Israel will not allow the vessel to reach Gaza, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Tuesday after the organizers of the “flotilla” issued a communiqué saying they received clearance in La Spezia, Italy, to set sail and will reach Gaza in some two weeks time.

“This is the same old, same old,” Ilana Stein said of the Estelle, which counts among its 16 passengers the radical Swedish anti-Israeli activist Dror Feiler.

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The organizers know that they are not going to be allowed to reach Gaza, and are just trying to make noise, Stein said.

Stein said that the number of participants was small, and that Israel was not overly concerned about the matter.

The ship is part of the Freedom Flotilla movement. The movement's first attempt to break the blockade ended in the deaths of nine Turkish activists after Israeli Navy commandos on May 31, 2010 boarded the Turkish ship, which claimed to be carrying humanitarian aid, after warning the ship not to sail into waters near the Gaza Strip in circumvention of Israel's naval blockade of the coastal strip.

Freedom Flotilla movement spokeswoman Ann Ighe told the French news agency AFP that the Estelle "is a peaceful ship."

The Estelle began its journey in Sweden and toured Europe, including Finland, France and Spain, before arriving last week in the Gulf of Naples. 

Since the Mavi Marmara, a number of groups have unsuccessfully tried to organize various protest flotillas to Gaza or “fly-ins” to Israel.

Herb Keinon, Ilene Prusher and Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.

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