Boat of female activists set to attempt Gaza landing

Israeli officials say navy will intercept the Zaytouna-Oliva overnight and escort it to the Israeli port of Ashdod

The Zaytouna-Oliva, the boat attempting to break the Gaza blockade (YouTube screenshot)
The Zaytouna-Oliva, the boat attempting to break the Gaza blockade (YouTube screenshot)

A group of women will try to reach the Gaza Strip on board a boat on Wednesday in a bid to break a decade-long blockade by Israel, a spokeswoman said.

Fifteen women will try to breach the blockade aboard the Zaytouna-Oliva boat early on Wednesday, said spokeswoman Claude Leotic.

“But we fear there will be an Israeli attack” to prevent the boat from reaching Gaza’s shores, she told AFP Tuesday in a telephone interview.

Israeli media, quoting unnamed officials, have reported in recent days that the navy will intercept the boat and escort it to the Israeli port of Ashdod to prevent it from reaching Gaza.

Israel says its maritime, land and sea blockade of Gaza is aimed at preventing Hamas from receiving weapons and supplies which could be used for military purposes. An Islamist terror group, Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, seeks the destruction of Israel, and has fought three wars with the Jewish state since 2008.

The Zaytouna-Oliva is one of two vessels that set sail from Barcelona in September.

Update from Day 2 at sea

Posted by Women's Boat to Gaza-US Section on Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The flotilla dubbed “Women’s Boat to Gaza,” is part of the wider Freedom Flotilla Coalition that consists of pro-Palestinian boats that regularly go to Gaza from all over the world to try to break the security blockade.

None has yet managed to get through, and Israeli authorities have made several arrests.

The first flotilla to Gaza, led by the Mavi Marmara ship, was intercepted by IDF naval commandos. They were attacked as they boarded the Marmara, 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.

Among the women of different nationalities on board the Zaytouna-Oliva is Northern Ireland activist and 1976 Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire.

A South African passenger, Leigh-Ann Naidoo, told AFP she expected the boat to be 100 nautical miles off the shores of Gaza by 0300 GMT.

“Our goal is to reach Gaza. We are not worried about what Israel plans on doing,” she added.

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