Navy braced for Gaza-bound French boat that left Greece

Gov't officials say navy prepared for wide range of scenarios including possibility that passengers will resist navy takeover.

By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL IN BERLIN
July 6, 2011 02:06
3 minute read.
Flotilla II activists July 2011

Flotilla support rally Gallery 465 4. (photo credit: REUTERS/Marko Djurica)

The Israel Navy is prepared to stop a French vessel that set sail from near Greece on Tuesday and that is believed to be heading to the Gaza Strip in an effort to break an Israel-imposed sea blockade, said government officials.

On Tuesday afternoon, organizers announced that the small French yacht named Dignity had left waters near Greece with eight passengers on board en-route to Gaza.

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Government officials said that the navy was under orders to stop any vessel that tried to break the blockade. They also said that the navy was prepared for a wide range of scenarios, including the possibility that the passengers on the ship plan to resist the navy’s takeover of the vessel.

Meanwhile Tuesday, John Klusmire, the captain of the US-flagged ship Audacity of Hope who was arrested last week for trying to sail to Gaza, was released from custody.

“He is released; there is no charge against him. He is free to go,” Adam Shapiro, one of the organizers of the Free Gaza Movement said. “Our destination remains the freedom of the Palestinian people.”

The flotilla, carrying about 350 passengers, was supposed to be taking tens of thousands of dollars of medicines, food, gifts and building materials to Gaza.

But the chances of any of the ships arriving in Gaza were increasingly remote due to the vigilance of the Greek coast guard and the rigid enforcement of the government’s ban.

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About 20 Spanish activists, from the ship Guernica, occupied their nation’s embassy in Athens on Tuesday to protest against the ban and demand their government’s support.

Meanwhile, Philip Missfelder, the foreign policy spokesman of the German political parties the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU), said in a statement on Tuesday that the so-called Gaza flotilla activists “endanger peace efforts” and their action is “part of the asymmetrical warfare against Israel.”

In what appears to be the strongest statement yet from an MP in the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, on the aim of pro- Palestinian activists to break Israel’s naval blockade of Hamas controlled Gaza, Missfelder said this action is “not about humanitarian help, rather a confrontation with Israel.”

Missfelder is the foreign policy spokesman of the largest combined group of MPs (238) in the parliament. He said that the flotilla does not help the peace process but is an obstacle to peace, and that the activists are working against the goals of both the Quartet and Germany herself, in her role as a member of the UN Security Council to advance peace.

“I welcome that the Greek authorities have decisively intervened as some activists set sail without permission,” said Missfelder.

Last week, Greece’s coast guard stopped the American vessel The Audacity of Hope and arrested its captain for unlawfully leaving the Athens harbor without authorization. On Monday, the Greeks also intercepted the Canadian ship Tahrir, which was bound for Gaza, and sent the vessel back to Crete. Fifty passengers aboard the Tahrir were detained by the Greek coastal authority.


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