Gaza flotilla organizers demand Greek police provide security for ships
Two ships from Sweden and Greece sabotaged over last two days; organizer Manolis Plionis says damage 'won't stop us from sailing,' believes both ships will participate in flotilla.
The organizers of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla yesterday demanded that Greek police and port authorities provide security for the ships and investigate their recent sabotage. Some of the activists announced that they themselves plan to guard the ships.
Two of the ships, one Swedish and one Greek, were sabotaged over the past two days. According to the organizers, the propellers on both ships were damaged, and the pipes leading to the engines were damaged to the extent that an explosion might have occured once the ships set sail, had it gone unnoticed.
The 'Ship to Gaza Sweden' website posted a video showing the damage apparently done to the ships.
One of the organizers, Manolis Plionis, told the DPA that the Swedish ship, Juliano, named after the assassinated Jewish-Palestinian activist Juliano Mer Khamis, was hit yesterday morning. "We found a crack in the ship's propeller that will take us a few days to fix," he said."It won't stop us from sailing and it won't cancel the flotilla, it just might delay us for a few days. We're in no rush and we'll leave as soon as we are ready."
He said he believed both damaged ships would eventually participate in the flotilla. One of the target dates for the flotilla to take off is the first eve of Ramadan, which this year falls on early August. The organizers stopped short of directly charging a specific country or organization with responsibility for the damage but noted that all evidence points to Israeli involvement, as Israel has the clearest interest in undermining the flotilla, and its commando units have reportedly sabotaged ships in the past.
The head of the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza, Dr. Arafat Madi, demanded yesterday the the Greek authorities investigate the acts of sabotage. "The sabotage is dangerous," he said. "It can cause an explosion and kill many activists."
Meanwhile, Israeli government sources monitoring the flotilla told Haaretz yesterday they believe technical and bureaucratic delays will detain the flotilla until at least the weekend. They estimated that since the organizers wanted maximum coverage for the flotilla, they would probably avoid getting too close to areas where the Israeli navy might intercept them until after the weekend, when television viewer numbers in Europe and the United States are at their lowest.
The IDF yesterday declined to comment on allegations that Israel was behind the acts of sabotage, while Foreign Ministry officials rejected them out of hand, calling them "whiny" and "baseless."
Madi said that at this point the challenge wasn't so much getting to Gaza but getting all necessary permissions and leaving port.
A defense source said this week that Israel will try using a variety of means to prevent the flotilla reaching Gaza, avoiding the need to board the vessels. He said this was unlikely to happen in Greek harbors at a time when Israel was warming up diplomatic and military relations with Greece.
Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said yesterday the flotilla was reinforcing the fiction that there was hunger in the Strip, while in fact this was not the case. "The flotilla we're supposed to meet is creating a story that doesn't exist to maintain an actual story," Gantz said. "Anyone reading the papers will see that, at the end of the day, the situation reflected in Gaza is that of water parks and the beach, and the distance between that and a humanitarian problem is so great there isn't any connection."
Sources in the Foreign Ministry expressed great satisfaction with the delays. They told Haaretz the ships will not be able to leave port at least in the next two days, after the public sector in Greece announced a two-day strike to protest the local government's austerity plans. "Many of the participants have been waiting in Greece for a week without any possibility of setting out to the Gaza Strip," one official said.