Greeks stop ship of activists from sailing to Gaza

Canadian boat ‘Tahrir’ forced to return to Crete shortly after departure; refusing to identify captain, all 50 flotilla activists taken into custody.

Canadian boat Tahrir flotilla_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Canadian boat Tahrir flotilla_311
(photo credit: Reuters)
The Greek Coast Guard stopped a Canadian ship soon after it set sail for the Gaza Strip from Crete on Monday, the second time in three days Greek authorities have intercepted vessels headed for Gaza in defiance of the Athens government.
A spokeswoman at the Greek embassy in Tel Aviv said that Greek commandos boarded the boat, named the Tahrir, shortly after it set sail, just as they did Friday in stopping an American vessel that was taking part in the Gaza-bound flotilla. When the passengers on Monday refused to identify the captain of the ship, all 50 of them were taken into custody, she said.
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On Friday, the Greek authorities published an order barring the departure of all ships flying either Greek or foreign flags to “the maritime area of Gaza.”
The Greek government explained that the move was taken because “certain groups of Greek and foreign citizens, without having received the necessary permission required according to the rules of safety, insisted to go through with the enterprise.”
Stopping the vessels was not “doing Israel’s dirty work,” as Dror Feiler, one of the flotilla’s organizers, said, but rather to avoid risking the loss of life, the spokeswoman said.
Feiler told Israel Radio on Monday that the problems the flotilla was having were “birth pangs.”
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“There are a lot of countries who decided to do Israel’s dirty work,” he said. “There are other countries in the Mediterranean, like Tunisia and Egypt, and I think that if Israel is not careful, and looks for all kinds of subcontractors it will find some, but there are other countries who won’t want to do it.”
One Foreign Ministry official dismissed Feiler’s comments, saying, “I am curious to know what the Tunisians and Egyptians think about the glorious partnership that Feiler is offering.”
With the flotilla long-delayed, Feiler said that there were some participants who wanted to return home. At the same time, he said, there were “hundreds” willing to take their places.