AGIOS NIKOLAOS, Crete - Activists onboard the Tahrir withdrew their ship from the planned flotilla to Gaza yesterday evening, after failing to gain permission from the Greek authorities to sail. The final straw came after the authorities asked for new documents that had not previously been required.
There are now just two ships from the original flotilla still planning to reach Gaza. One is Dignity El Karameh, with a French delegation of activists; it has been at sea for two weeks, waiting for the other vessels to join it. A few days ago, the vessel anchored in Crete in order to refuel. The other ship is the Greek-Swedish-Norwegian Giuliano, which left Athens last Wednesday.
During the past three weeks, the Greek authorities have imposed many bureaucratic obstacles which had not been applied before, aimed at the eight (of the 10 vessels in the Gaza-bound flotilla ) ships which were in their territorial waters.
Until last night, 25 of the Tahrir activists were still hoping to sail to Gaza - most of them Canadians, but with others from Denmark, Australia and Belgium. Around half of the activists were forced to drop out in the past week, chiefly because they had to return to jobs, no longer able to bear the brunt of the financial commitment required.
On Friday July 1, the Greek government issued an official order banning any ship to set sail from its ports toward Gaza. All of the Tahrir's passengers stayed initially, but some started to leave early last week. However, five participants returned to the ship in recent days after signs that they may receive permission to sail.
David Heap, professor of linguistics at the University of Western Ontario and part of the Tahrir's steering committee, announced that he had decided to pull out, adding that this did not put an end to the efforts or activities.
He also read a portion of a letter he received from a lecturer in French at the Al Aqsa University in Gaza: "Even if physically you did not manage to reach us," the letter said, "your voice - and the voices of all those in solidarity who mobilized to support you - have been heard and your message of peace for the inhabitants of the Occupied Palestinian Territories has been received."
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