US boat to Gaza flotilla 'Audacity of Hope' 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/John Kolesidis)
Greek Ministry of Citizen Protection on Friday issued a statement saying
that the Minister, C. Papoutsis, decided to prohibit the departure of
ships flying either Greek or foreign flags "to the maritime area" of
"By orders of the Hellenic Coast Guard Head Quarters to all
local Hellenic Coast Guard Authorities, all appropriate measures are
taken for the implementation of the said decision," the statement said.
The Greek ministry said that the "broader maritime area of eastern Mediterranean
will be continuously monitored by electronic means for tracking, where
applicable, the movements of the ships allegedly participating" in the
While Cyprus had already banned ships headed for
Gaza from leaving their ports, the Greeks had not taken this measure
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The Greek Coast Guard intercepted a boat
carrying US activists soon after they set sail from Greece on Friday to
join a pro-Palestinian flotilla to Gaza, one of the activists said.
Late Friday evening, the
US boat slated to participate in the Gaza flotilla, The Audacity of Hope,
turned back to a
Greek port after it was intercepted by Greek commandos Friday evening,
organizers said through their Twitter feed. The boat was brought under
Coast Guard escort to a closed Coast Guard base in Greece.
The boat had just left Perama port, near Piraeus, for the open seas, a Reuters witness said.
Minutes before initially being intercepted, organizers said that the ship's passengers were preparing to
"non-violently resist any efforts to stop the boat," saying moments
later that the boat "is about to set sail," followed by a message saying that the ship had departed. Through the boat's twitter feed, organizers said that a Greek Coast Guard vessel approached The Audacity of Hope as it was pulling away from the dock but then sped away.
flotilla of boats planning to challenge Israel's naval blockade of the
Gaza Strip is expected to sail next week, after repeated delays that
activists blame on Israeli sabotage. Israel has denied the accusations.
"We are just here, two miles off Piraeus. We've been stopped by the
coastguard, their ship maneuvered in front of us and they are now
talking to the captain, they want us to turn around," Ann Wright, one of
the activists, told Reuters.
"We are non-violent, we pose no threat," she added, saying that the
group was informed of the sailing ban just as it was setting off.
It was not immediately clear how the boat's departure would affect the overall flotilla plans.