Gaza boats 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
An activist in the protest flotilla bound for Gaza told Army Radio on Sunday that those aboard the ships would
not react violently if the ships were thwarted by the Navy. In addition to
encountering diplomatic obstacles and mechanical
problems, the ships reportedly lost their satellite phone connections
The flotilla, on its way to test the blockade of the Gaza Strip was delayed once again. The Gaza-bound protest ships, which were originally slated to arrive in Israeli waters on Saturday, will leave international waters off Cyprus on Sunday and are scheduled to reach Gaza on Monday. Technical difficulties were cited as the reason for the hold up.
While eight ships were initially scheduled to sail
to Gaza, in the end a total of five ships were reported to be on their
way after three suffered technical malfunctions.
Flotilla bound for Gaza delayed, loses key members
Haniyeh: Gaza flotilla a triumph
One of the
highest profile figures on the ships is Balad MK Haneen Zoabi, who said
she was proud to do her part to end what she called a siege on Gaza.
Right-wing MKs called for Zoabi’s arrest and ouster from the Knesset.
is working together with Israel’s enemies to encourage terrorism and
harm Israel’s image internationally, and these acts constitute treason,”
Likud MK Danny Danon wrote to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein in his
request for him to order Zoabi’s arrest upon her arrival in Israel.
Part of the delay was caused by difficulties the organizers encountered
in trying to have two dozen more would-be passengers, including 19
European legislators and a Holocaust survivor, join the ships anchored
in international waters off Cyprus. The Cypriot government did not
allow smaller boats to ferry the group to the flotilla.
Authorities in Cyprus said the decision was made to protect the island’s
“vital interests,” including economic ties with Israel.
Organizers then appealed to the Turkish government to get the group out
via a Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus port. Turkish Cypriot
officials have said they want to help the group as much as they can.
Lieberman: Gov't will not allow ships to violate its sovereignty
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Friday that Israel would not
allow the protest ships to violate its sovereignty, and that they would
The navy is prepared to stop the ships before they reach Gaza and has
put most of its forces on operational standby since Friday. The ships
will receive a number of warnings as they begin to approach the Gaza
Strip, starting from a distance of about 65 kilometers. If the ships
are commandeered, they will be sailed to the Ashdod Port, where the
government has set up tents to hold the activists.
The activists will be taken to the tents for identification and medical
attention, and asked to leave the country voluntarily. If they refuse,
they will be arrested and transferred to the custody of the Prisons
Service and the Interior Ministry.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said the flotilla signaled the end
of the blockade.
“If the ships reach Gaza, it’s a victory for Gaza,” Haniyeh told some
400 supporters on Saturday, after touring Gaza City’s small fishing
harbor where several smaller vessels breaking the blockade have docked
in the past. “If they are intercepted and terrorized by the Zionists,
it will be a victory for Gaza, too, and they will move again in new
ships to break the siege of Gaza.”
Gil Hoffman and AP contributed to this