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General News    H3'ed 8/23/12

Blockade Busters -- Activists and Ships Attempting to Break the Israeli Blockade of Gaza

Message Ann Wright
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After two years of continuous demands to the Israeli government and pressure on the Greek government for assistance, in mid-June, 2012, Greek activists succeeded in getting released from Israel two ships that had sailed in the 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla.

The passenger ship "Sfendoni" and the cargo ship "Eleftheri Mesogeios," or "Sofia" had to be towed out of the Haifa, Israel harbor due to damage caused by Israeli commandos and intelligence agents when they attacked the ships on May 31, 2010. The "Sofia" was towed to Turkey and the "Sfendoni" was towed to the Greek port of Piraeus arriving on June 20, 2012. See here.

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Israeli commandos attacked all six ships in the flotilla and murdered nine persons on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara and wounded 50 more passengers. Activists on each of the six ships were beaten up, tased, put in Israeli prison and eventually deported from Israel.

Mavi Marmara Quickly Returned to Turkey

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Due to intense pressure, Mavi Marmara, on which the nine passengers were murdered, was returned to Turkey by the Israeli government on December 27, 2010. The ship had been repainted to cover the blood stains of the dead and wounded activists. The extensive damage to the Mavi Marmara has been repaired and the ship is in the Istanbul harbor.

Two cargo ships in the 2010 flotilla," Gazze" and "Defne Y," were returned from Israel to Turkey also in December, 2010.  They both suffered extensive damage done by Israeli agents.

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In the 2010 flotilla, the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) sponsored the "Mavi Marmara" with 581 passengers, and two cargo ships, the "Gazze" with five passengers and the "Defne Y" with 27 passengers. The European Campaign to End the Siege sponsored the passenger boat "Sfendoni" with 45 passengers. The Greek Boat to Gaza campaign sponsored the "Eleftheri Mesogeios" or "Sofia" cargo ship with 10 passengers. The Free Gaza Movement sponsored "Challenger 1" and "Challenger 2" boats. The "Challenger 1" had 17 passengers. The "Challenger 2" developed mechanical troubles attributed to sabotage by Israeli commandos and did not depart from Cyprus. "Challenger 2" passengers were placed on the "Challenger "1 and the "Mavi Marmara."

The Free Gaza Movement and the Malaysian Perdana Global Peace Foundation (PGPF) sponsored the cargo ship "Rachel Corrie" with 21 passengers. The "Rachel Corrie" had sailed from Ireland and did not arrive in the Mediterranean in time to go with the other ships of the flotilla. She was boarded by Israeli commandos and taken to Haifa Harbor on June 5, 2010, five days after the main flotilla was attacked.

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Rachel Corrie

More ships attempt to Break the Israeli Naval Blockade of Gaza in 2010 and 2011

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In September, 2010, a small sailing boat called the "Irene" and filled with Jewish activists, including two former Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers representing Breaking the Silence, attempted to break the naval blockade and also was stopped by Israeli commandos and taken eventually to Haifa Harbor.

Gaza Freedom Flotilla "Stay Human"

In July, 2011, 10 ships from 22 national campaigns attempted to sail to Gaza. The Israeli government convinced the Greek government to stop 8 ships that were in Greek waters to sail for Gaza.  The US Boat to Gaza, the "Audacity of Hope," (See here) and the Canadian/Australian/Belgian/Danish boat to Gaza, the "Tahrir," (See here) attempted to break the Greek blockade and sail to Gaza, but were physically turned back to Greece by Greek Coast Guard and commandos.

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Audacity of Hope   

The "Dignite-Al Karama," a French boat that had sailed from France, was able to evade Greek authorities and attempted to break the blockade in July, 2011. She was boarded by Israeli commandos and also taken to Haifa harbor.

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Dignite-Al Krama

The other ships in the 2011 flotilla were the Irish boat, "Saoirse," the Spanish boat, "Gernika," the Swedish-Greek boat "Juliano," the Italian-Dutch boat "Stefano Chiarini," the French boat "Louise Michel," and the Greek-Swedish cargo ship.

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Louise Michel

In November, 2011, in what was called "Freedom Waves," the "Tahrir," the Canadian campaign boat, and the "Saoirse," the Irish campaign boat, sailed from turkey for Gaza. The two boats were boarded by Israeli commandos and also taken to Haifa.

Israelis still have seven boats impounded

After the release of two boats in mid-June, the Israeli government still has seven boats impounded in Haifa harbor: six passenger boats -- "Spirit of Humanity," "Challenger 1," "Irene," "Dignite-Al Karama," "Tahrir," and "Saoirse," and one cargo ship: "Rachel Corrie."

The Greeks have four boats impounded

The Greek government still has four boats impounded -- the US Boat to Gaza, "Audacity of Hope"; the Spanish boat to Gaza, "Gernika"; the Swedish-Greek-Norwegian boat to Gaza, "Juliano"; and the Italian-Dutch boat to Gaza, "Stefano Chiarini."

The French campaign sold its boat "Louise Michel" in Greece.

Six boats succeeded in getting into Gaza in 2008

From August through December, 2008, the Free Gaza Movement organized boats and passengers to challenge the Israeli blockade. The Israeli government did not stop the boats and they made six trips to Gaza, using three boats.

On August 23-29, 2008, two small wooden boats, the "Free Gaza" and the "Liberty" with 44 passengers left from Cyprus, broke the Israeli blockade and sailed into Gaza -- the first boats to arrive in Gaza in 40 years.

On October 28-November 1, 2008, a third boat, the "Dignity," with 27 passengers broke the blockade and sailed into Gaza. A week later, November 8-11, 2008, the "Dignity" with 24 passengers, including Parliamentarians, sailed again to Gaza.

One month later, December 8-11, 2008, the "Dignity" with 16 passengers, including students, sailed again into Gaza.

One week later, December 18-19, 2008, the "Dignity" with 14 passengers called the "Qatari" delegation, returned to gaza.

No boats allowed into Gaza after beginning of Israeli attack on Gaza

On December 27, 2008, the Israeli military began its 22 day attack on Gaza that killed 1440 persons, wounded 5,000 and left 50,000 homeless.  No boats were allowed into Gaza after the Israeli attack on Gaza began.

On December 28-29, 2008, the "Dignity" with 16 passengers, was rammed and almost sunk by the Israeli navy and slowly limped into a harbor in Lebanon.

On January 12-15, 2009, "The Spirit of Humanity" with 36 passengers, was forced by the Israeli navy to turn back and return to Cyprus.

On June 29-July 7, 2009, "The Spirit of Humanity" with 21 passengers was forcefully stopped by Israeli commandos, its passengers taken to Israeli prison and deported, and the boat taken to the Haifa harbor.

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Spirit of Humanity

"Freedom Sailors"

An extensive history of the Free Gaza Movement and the boats and passengers that sailed to Gaza is chronicled in a new book called "Freedom Sailors."

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Next Steps to Break the Israeli Blockade of Gaza

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SV Estelle

The Ship to Gaza-Sweden campaign has purchased  a large sailing ship that will be used to breach the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza in 2012. The vessel -- the SV Estelle -- will bring goods to Gaza that are banned or restricted by the Israeli siege, and will also export commercial produce from Gaza on the return journey. The SV Estelle, a tall ship built in 1922, will stop at several ports in Europe on its way to Gaza and will be joined by other vessels on the final leg of its journey through the Mediterranean.

Gaza's Ark

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Another project to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza is called Gaza's Ark. The project in which funds from the international community   will provide jobs for Palestinians in Gaza to renovate a ship already in the Gaza City harbor. The ship will be loaded with products from Gaza that are purchased by the international community from Palestinian businesses and producers.  The ship will then sail out from Gaza to deliver the products to another port where they will be sent on to their contracted destinations.

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Ann Wright is a 29-year US Army/Army Reserves veteran, a retired United States Army colonel and retired U.S. State Department official, known for her outspoken opposition to the Iraq War. She received the State Department Award for Heroism in 1997, after helping to evacuate several thousand (more...)
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