Gaza flotilla to set sail Monday despite numerous setbacks
Activists say all operational ships will be ready to depart, but exact number is yet unknown.
The organizers of the Gaza-bound flotilla said Sunday that all operational ships will set sail on Monday, despite the numerous delays the flotilla activists had encountered in the past week.
The decision to depart on Monday was made following several days of deliberations on the subject, and the exact number of ships due to sail is still unknown.
Belying recent reports, most of the Gaza flotilla activists are still participating.
Moreover, activists in several countries of origin of the ships participating in the flotilla such as Canada and Belgium held protests in support of the Gaza flotilla and against the Greek government, which had issued an order to bar the ships from leaving Greek ports.
Eight of the ten ships due to participate in the Gaza flotilla were delayed over the weekend in various Greek ports, following an order by the Greek government to bar the departure of the vessels.
The activists as well as members of the leftist opposition in Greece accused the Socialist government of caving in to Israeli pressure. Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis said that the Greek government is preventing the departure of the vessels in order to avoid a ‘humanitarian disaster’ which will result from a violent confrontation with the Israeli navy.
The foreign minister also promised that he will continue to negotiate with the UN in order to find a solution to the flotilla crisis.
The Greek ban applies to all Greek and foreign vessels in Greek ports heading to Gaza.
The organizers of the flotilla were considering legal action to cancel the Greek ban on the departure of the ships. They were also trying to rally members of leftist parties in various countries and the European Parliament to convince the Greek government to change the orders.
Before the official publication of the instructions at 4:30 P.M. on Friday, the boat of the American delegation tried to set sail from the port of Perama without clearance from the Greek authorities. The ship was carrying 51 passengers, including five members of the crew and 11 journalists.
According to the flotilla organizers, the delays by the Greek authorities in granting permission to sail stemmed from political pressure.
The American ship, Audacity of Hope, named after President Barack Obama's book, was blocked by a vessel of the Greek coast guard.
After the members of the American delegation were warned that their ship would be taken over by force they agreed to sail back to port, shadowed by the coast guard vessel.