Greek authorities ban flotilla ships, detain US boat
'Audacity of Hope' organizers say Greek authorities approach ship shortly after leaving port; boat brought back to Greek Coast Guard base.
By HERB KEINON, REUTERS, JPOST.COM STAFFThe 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 Gaza."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 Gaza flotilla.While Cyprus had already banned ships headed for Gaza from leaving their ports, the Greeks had not taken this measure until Friday. RELATED:PM: Israel fully entitled to stop 'arms-smuggling flotilla''Hamas leader is brain behind Dutch flotilla'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.AdvertisementA 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.
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