Gaza flotilla activists occupy Spanish embassy in Greece
Activists demand flotilla be allowed to leave for Gaza; American captain of Gaza flotilla ship released after Saturday arrest.
A group of Gaza flotilla activists occupied the Spanish embassy in Athens on Tuesday, demanding that the Gaza-bound flotilla be allowed to leave Greece for the Gaza Strip.
The 21 Spanish activists intend on sailing on the Spanish boat Guernica, which has been docked on the southern Greek island of Crete for the past few weeks, awaiting an opportunity to sail as part of a flotilla that aims to challenge the Israeli blockade of Gaza. The activists insist that they will continue to occupy the premises of the embassy until the Spanish government asks Greek authorities to allow them to sail to Gaza.
The Greek coast guard has intercepted several of the 10 ships which have attempted to set sail for Gaza from Greece, following a ban on departures towards Gaza by the Athens government last week. The flotilla vessels are carrying more than 350 activists from 22 countries. Activists taking part in the flotilla say they will still try to leave Greek ports despite repeated delays, which they blame on Israeli sabotage.
The activists have rejected Israeli claims that they are carrying dangerous materials or that they planned to use violence against Israeli soldiers attempting to stop them at sea.
On Monday, pro-Palestinian activists said two Canadians and an Australian have been detained after their boat tried to leave Greece. The boat was forced to turn back by coast guard vessels.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, John Klusmire, the American captain of the flotilla boat Audacity of Hope, was released from custody on Tuesday after he was arrested on Saturday on chargesof setting sail without permission and endangering passengers.
On early Tuesday morning, a French yacht participating in the flotilla left a port near Athens, but turned back after several hours, Israel Radio reported. The report stated that flotilla activists aboard the Dignite-Al Karama did not want to be the only ones sailing to the Strip, after the other boats were prevented from doing so by the Greek coast guard.
The announcement contradicted an earlier message posted by the organizers on the A French Boat for Gaza campaign’s website, which stated that "late in the night, the French boat reached international waters. It is heading now towards Gaza." The post went on to say that "the Israeli blockade, which thanks to the Greek government has been extended to the gates of the European Union, has been broken”.