French flotilla ship 'Dignity' allowed to sail from Crete

Greeks say vessel detained last week while refueling will now sail to the island of Rhodes, activists vow final destination is still Gaza Strip.

By REUTERS,
July 9, 2011 19:58
2 minute read.
French flotilla boat leaving Crete

French flotilla boat leaving Crete 311 (R). (photo credit: Reuters)

The French flotilla ship Dignity was allowed to leave a Greek port in Crete on Saturday after having been detained by the Greek coast guard while refueling on Thursday.

While the Greek coastguard said Dignity's destination was the island of Rhodes, an activist on board said the ship still planned on sailing for the Gaza Strip.

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"Our final destination is Gaza, we hope that we will reach that destination, but for the time being we are sailing within the Greek waters," one of ten pro-Palestinian activists aboard Dignity said.

Dignity had been sitting in international waters all week waiting for the other nine ships in the flotilla to join it. The flotilla ships hoped to break the blockade on the Gaza Strip, but Athens has imposed a departure ban on all Gaza-bound ships on safety grounds.

Eight ships remain blocked in Greek ports while a ninth sits in need of repair in a Turkish port after claims of sabotage.

The protest flotilla to the Gaza Strip seemed to come to an end on Thursday, when organizers decided to send more than half of the activists in Athens home.

The remaining activists said they would ponder their options in the face of Greece’s continued refusal to allow the ships to sail.

Huwaida Arraf, a co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement and one of the leaders of the Free Gaza Movement behind the flotilla, told The Jerusalem Post that most of the activists had been sent home to engage in education and advocacy.

A few dozen activists remained behind in Athens to continue fighting for the release of the ships – a sharp drop from the 350 who arrived there in late June.

“It does not make sense to keep people waiting as we get the boats released, and those people went home to do advocacy, which is better than waiting here,” Arraf said by phone from the Greek capital.

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