A flotilla comprised of three vessels carrying pro-Palestinian activists will set sail from a Mediterranean port over the coming days and will head for the Gaza Strip in a bid to break the Israeli- and Egyptian-imposed blockade on the Palestinian enclave.
The activists say the vessels are carrying a cargo of solar panels and medical supplies for Gaza residents, who are still recovering from last summer’s Operation Protective Edge, and expect to reach the Strip by the end of the month, unless they are intercepted.
Organizers would not provide specific details about the whereabouts of the vessels, dubbed Freedom Flotilla III, nor the date they were expected to set off, but indicated it would be sometime over the next few days.
Activists told al-Jazeera that they have a “strict non-violence policy” and would not use violence against the Israeli Navy should they be intercepted in international waters or beyond.
Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza in 2007 when the Islamist Hamas group took control of the Strip in a bloody coup, ousting the Palestinian Authority leadership.
Both countries say the security blockade is meant to prevent Hamas, a terror group avowedly committed to the destruction of Israel, from importing weaponry into Gaza to use against Israel.
The IDF intercepted a number of civilian ships carrying weapons headed for Gaza in recent years. It has also turned away attempts by activists to break the blockade.
In 2010, Israeli commandos intercepted the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, the largest ship in a flotilla dispatched to Gaza by the Turkish relief agency Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), and were violently attacked by those on board, with several soldiers seriously injured. Nine Turks died when the commandos opened fire in what Israel said was self-defense, and one more died in hospital last year.
The assault on the ship sparked widespread condemnation and provoked a major diplomatic crisis between Turkey and Israel. Ties between the two former allies have yet to recover.