Gaza 'siege-breaking boats' delayed

Free Gaza Movement: Weather forcing 44 pro-Palestinian activists to set sail on Friday instead.

gaza blockade protest AP (photo credit: AP)
gaza blockade protest AP
(photo credit: AP)
A storm has kept two boats carrying 44 pro-Palestinian activists from setting off for Gaza on Wednesday, delaying their journey until Friday, the Free Gaza Movement, which organized the vessels, said. The voyage is aimed at "breaking the siege of Gaza," spokeswoman Gretta Berlin said, adding that the the activists "do not intend to turn around" if they are confronted by the Israeli Navy. "Why should we turn around? Israel doesn't own that property. We have been invited by the people of Gaza," Berlin said, speaking from Cyprus, where the boats will dock en route to Gaza. "We will certainly talk to them [the Israeli Navy], but our intent is to break the siege of Gaza. We want to get all the way to Gaza," Berlin said. At Cyprus, activists will lay 34 roses in the sea "in memory of the sailors of the USS Liberty," Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, also of the Movement, said. The USS Liberty was accidentally struck by the Israeli air force on the fourth day of the Six Day War, after being misidentified as an Egyptian warship. "The only people with guns and munitions and helicopters and strafing materials in that neighborhood are the Israelis, and so it's rather obvious who is the bully of the Mediterranean," Berlin added. "If they [Navy personnel] board our boats then there's nothing we can do to stop them. We are non-violent human rights workers. We'll stand in line, link arms, and tell them they're not wanted." Asked what measures her organization was taking to protect Israelis living under the shadow of Kassam rockets and shelling, Berlin said, "We are a human rights organization. We don't take any political stances... I would say that since the rockets began 17 Israelis have been killed by Kassams, which is a terrible thing to have happened. But at the same time, 1,700 Palestinians have been killed." Berlin said she "condemns violence on both sides as long as it is aimed at civilians. Civilians should never be killed under any circumstances." The idea for the journey began two years ago, when a "group of people who had been in the occupied territories looked for a way to get the international community to recognize that Gaza is under siege. Many of us are human rights activists in the US. We feel that just feeding people won't help get them on their feet. That's how the African American civil rights movement began - people need someone to help stand up for their civil rights," she added. The idea of a boat journey to Gaza "was an evolutionary thing that happened over a period of a few months, and it mushroomed from there. "We have been quite nicely surprised that these two small boats carrying 44 people are making such an impression around the international community," she added. The boats are expected to approach Gaza sometime next week. The Navy said in a statement that it does not discuss its preparations publicly.