ISRAEL ISSUES THREATS AS LONE FLOTILLA SHIP SET TO LAND IN GAZA WITHIN 24 HOURS
Some ten of the flotilla's ships were impounded in Greece after Israel used political pressure to prevent the flotilla from breaching its unilateral siege of the Gaza Strip and delivering much needed aid.
A French yacht carrying 17 passengers managed to evade Greece's ban on all ships joining the flotilla and eventually ended up in Kastellorizo island on Saturday night, where the passengers were welcomed by locals.
The yacht, dubbed Dignite – Al-Karama, set sail from that island on Monday and disseminated news that it was nearing the occupied Palestinian territories and that it would land in the Gaza Strip within 24 hours.
Israeli officials issued threats through media outlets as the ship draws in on its destination. They said they would prevent the ship from reaching the Gaza coast.
On board the Dignite – Al-Karama are mostly French activists. Also among them are correspondents for a few leading news outlets, including Al-Jazeera and Israel's Haaretz.
Organizers said the yacht was intercepted by Greek coast guards on 7 July. It evaded authorities by officially saying they were sailing to the Egyptian port city of Alexandria. But the group was in fact determined to land in Gaza, organizers have announced.
"The boat should be off the Gaza coast on Tuesday afternoon," spokesman Maxime Guimberteau told AFP by phone from Paris on Monday.
"It is travelling slowly, mainly to conserve fuel," he said.
"The fact that the Dignite - Al Karama is at sea is a setback for the Israeli government which by force or by pressure is trying to perpetuate an illegal and criminal blockade and to silence civil society movements around the world," a statement issued from the boat said.
Greek authorities blocked nine of the flotilla's ships carrying 300 activists from 22 countries from departing from its ports and going to Gaza, threatening to use force if orders made under Israeli pressure were not obeyed.
The authorities say the measure was taken for the “safety” of the ships’ passengers and also to prevent a repeat of what happened in May 2010, when Israeli commandos intercepted the original six-ship Freedom Flotilla and killed nine activists on board.
June 18, 2011