US boat to Gaza flotilla 'Audacity of Hope' 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/John Kolesidis)
Organizers of the flotilla seeking to break Israel’s blockade over the Gaza Strip are considering an offer by Athens to allow Greek Navy ships to transfer the humanitarian aid they had planned to bring with them to Gaza on their behalf.
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Nevertheless, organizers said Sunday night that they were still looking into ways to circumvent a Greek government order preventing the ships from leaving Greece for the Gaza Strip.
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“It is possible that this is under consideration but…that is not considered breaking the siege,” said Ewa Jasiewicz, one of the leaders of the Free Gaza Movement, which is in charge of the flotilla. “We want to break the siege and the flotilla is not about expanding the drip of humanitarian aid to Gaza.”
Jasiewicz said that organizers were still looking into ways to sail out of Greece, which on Friday issued an order banning the ships from sailing to Gaza and later detained the captain of the US-flagged “Audacity of Hope” after he tried leaving port. She hinted to the possibility that some of the ships would consider sailing despite the Greek order.
“The decision is to keep exploring options and to continue with the flotilla,” she said. “The boats that were sabotaged are being repaired and we still have possession of our boats and are exploring opportunities for sailing. We are confident.”
Also on Sunday, activists intending to participate in the flotilla to Gaza on-board the US-flagged ship The Audacity of Hope
announced an open-ended hunger strike, aimed at pressuring the US
government to allow the ship to set sail to the Strip, organizers said
in a press release Sunday.
Eight of the passengers, including
Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin and former CIA official Ray
McGovern, were listed as those participated in the hunger strike.
Additionally, the group said it would be holding a protest in front of
the US embassy in Athens to publicly make their call to the US
government. "We call on officials at the US embassy in Athens to
publicly acknowledge our right to sail and to call on the Greek
government to free our ship and its captain immediately," American
activist and hopeful flotilla passenger Kathy Kelly said in the
Due to the chance that the ships might still set sail, the Israel Navy is continuing to maintain a state of readiness if it will need to stop the ships from reaching Gaza. On Sunday, senior government officials expressed optimism with the setbacks that the flotilla was continuing to encounter and pointed to the fact that some of the participants had already given up and left Greece back for their home countries.
"We obviously still need to prepare for the possibility that flotillas will arrive,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said before the weekly cabinet meeting. “We are seeing positive developments regarding the flotilla. The governments of Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey are actively stopping it. This is a result of extensive work by the Foreign Ministry and the prime minister."
Meanwhile Sunday, Hamas called on Greece to overturn its decision and to allow the ships top sail to Gaza. Hamas’s foreign minister said it was regrettable that Greece had succumbed to international pressure.Herb Keinon and Reuters contributed to the report.