Two boats carrying 22 women in all set sail Wednesday night from Barcelona toward Gaza, in an attempt to breach Israel’s maritime blockade on the Hamas-run Strip.
The flotilla, organized by the Women’s Boat to Gaza group, is the latest in a series of boat trips that Israeli officials have termed provocations, a number of which have sparked major international incidents.
Those aboard the newest attempt include Swedish European Parliament Member Malin Bjork and Dr. Fouzia Hassan of Malaysia, according to Al Jazeera.
The two boats — named Amal (hope in Arabic) and Zaytouna (olive in Arabic) — are slated to near Gaza’s shores in early October.
“We are carrying food and medicine on the boat that will be distributed to Gazans upon arrival,” Zohar Chamberlain Regev, a spokeswoman of the initiative, told Al Jazeera.
“But mainly we are carrying a message of hope and solidarity, because we think Gazans want that most of all,” she said.
Check out https://wbg.freedomflotilla.org/ for pics of the pre-launch celebration in Barcelona. In addition 55…
The Women’s Boat to Gaza is part of the larger Freedom Flotilla Campaign, which announced the initiative last November.
The Freedom Flotilla Campaign said it planned to send two more boats: one in 2017 to show “solidarity with the fishermen of Gaza” and a second the next year “carrying hundreds of supporters from around the world.”
Israel maintains its security blockade on Gaza to prevent Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seized control of the Strip in 2007, from importing weaponry. Hamas, which avowedly seeks Israel’s destruction, has fought three conflicts against Israel since it took over Gaza, firing thousands of rockets indiscriminately into Israel, and digging tunnels under the border. It continues to test and improve its rockets in anticipation of further conflict, and has resumed digging tunnels in the wake of a 50-day conflict with Israel in the summer of 2014.
The Freedom Flotilla Coalition is a loose coalition of pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel groups from the EU, Canada, Turkey, the US and South Africa.
Last year the group sent a ship from Sweden to Gaza carrying several activists, including Israeli-Arab MK Basel Ghattas and former Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki.
The boat, which organizers said was carrying humanitarian aid, was stopped by Israeli forces before reaching Gazan waters and those aboard were detained, but it managed to shine an international spotlight on the Palestinian enclave.
The aid on the ship eventually turned out be a single solar panel and one nebulizer.
The first flotilla to Gaza, led by the Mavi Marmara ship, was intercepted by IDF naval commandos who were attacked as they boarded, leading to a melee during which 10 Turkish activists were killed and several Israeli soldiers were wounded, two of them seriously.
While that incident gave Israel a diplomatic black eye and contributed to a deterioration of ties with Turkey, Jerusalem has since apologized as part of major reconciliation deal with Ankara.