The "Freedom Waves to Gaza" flotilla organizers kept their latest attempt to set sail to the Gaza Strip under wraps out of concern that they would be stopped again before leaving the port in Turkey.
The activists from the Canadian vessel the "Tahrir," carrying twelve Canadian, American, Australian and Palestinian passengers, and the Irish vessel the "Saoirse," carrying 15 Irish passengers, told Haaretz that preparations were kept low profile until the two-vessel flotilla reached international waters.
The activists are also accompanied by reporters from news outlets including Al-Jazeera and Iranian television.
The Tahrir is carrying letters of support from activists in the U.S. to the people of Gaza, as well as some medical supplies. Some of the participants are new, and some have attempted already to sail to Gaza from Greece in July this year.
The activists arrived in Turkey in the past few days, and the boats sailed on Wednesday afternoon from the Turkish port of Fetniye.
According to Israel Defense Forces estimates, judging by the speed judging by the speed of the ships and the conditions at sea, the ships will arrive in Gaza between Thursday night and early Friday morning.
The activists told Haaretz that Turkish authorities requested they reduce the number of people on board, so not everyone was able to embark. They stressed that no particular organization was behind this new effort to sail to Gaza.
Canadian activist Wendy Goldsmith said that it was organized by "civil society with no particular leadership - pretty much as the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests, people who protest the injustice."
The flotilla has nothing to do with the rocket fire from Gaza or the recent prisoners swap between Hamas and Israel, added Goldsmith.
"The siege is still there. Israel had many ways to deal with its security problems, and the collective punishment of people living in Gaza is probably the worst - it's ineffective, immoral and illegal," she said.
She added that the activists expect an encounter with the Israeli authorities "at some point" and are concerned for their safety.
Ehab Lotayef, the organizer of the Tahrir, said in an announcement published on the website of the Irish boat that "the Palestinians living in Gaza want solidarity – not charity. They have made it clear to the world that their primary demand is for freedom. While humanitarian aid is helpful, Palestinians are still prisoners with no freedom of movement. Israel’s illegal blockade prevents not only imports into Gaza, but exports as well. And the blockade prevents Palestinians from moving freely between Gaza and the West Bank, in violation of fundamental human rights.”
The U.S.-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) called on the international community to ensure the safe passage of the ships through international waters into Gaza.
CCR senior staff attorney Maria LaHood said that “CCR applauds the persistence of civil society to break the siege on Gaza, where Palestinians remain imprisoned and isolated, without access to the supplies necessary to sustain and rebuild their lives.”
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