New int'l flotilla heading to Gaza in early 2011

IHH says may send ship larger than Mavi Marmara; US group sending ship named after Obama's book, "Audacity of Hope."

mavi marmara 311 AP (photo credit: AP)
mavi marmara 311 AP
(photo credit: AP)
GENEVA — Pro-Palestinian groups plan to sail a flotilla of boats through Israel's sea blockade of Gaza as early as February in the second such attempt in less than a year, activists said Monday.
The activists, representing groups from over a dozen countries including Switzerland, Turkey and the United States, said the flotilla would be bigger than the one stopped by Israel earlier this year.
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"It's not about the aid," Huwaida Arraf of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition told reporters in Geneva.
Arraf said the aim will instead be to show that the Gaza blockade can be broken.
A spokeswoman at Israel's embassy in Bern, Shlomit Sufa, said humanitarian goods are allowed into Gaza by land and the sea blockade is needed to prevent weapons being smuggled in to the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Several smaller ships have failed to reach Gaza since the May raid — most recently last month, when a boat carrying Jewish activists tried to reach the densely populated strip.
Among the groups planning to take part in the latest flotilla is the Turkey-based Islamic charity IHH, which sponsored the Mavi Marmara — by far the biggest ship in the first flotilla.
A representative of the group, Ahmet Faruk Unsal, said IHH is considering sending another ship of the same size.
An American group, US Boat to Gaza, is also planning to send a vessel, said activist Jane Hirschmann. The boat will be named "The Audacity of Hope" in reference to US President Barack Obama's best-selling policy book.