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May 29, 2010

Gaza hopes to welcome blockade-busting flotilla

One of the rare reports from the Western press

By Jon Donnison BBC News, Gaza City

Preparations are under way in Gaza to receive a convoy of ships that is trying to break Israel’s economic blockade of the Palestinian territory.

The ships, carrying up to 10,000 tonnes of aid and human rights activists from around the world, will try to reach Gaza on Sunday.

Israel is adamant it will not allow them into Gaza.

The blockade was imposed in 2007 after the Islamist movement Hamas took power in Gaza.

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A battle for the high seas. And the high ground’ By Lauren Booth*

If you’re hoping to see news about the extraordinary events taking place in the Med sea around Cyprus on either the BBC or Sky this weekend. Forget it. For now. Despite the fact that almost three dozen Brits are amongst the 700 brave souls heading to Gaza on a fleet of ships laden with essential aid. Or the incredible military and political manoeverings surrounding Israels response to the peaceful attempt, major news channels in the West remain silent. This despite the fact their news editors have the direct numbers of spokespeopleon board and access to the live news feed.

After calls to newsrooms across the UK it is clear to me that the first ever sea bound fleet of international aid to Palestine is not of itself a big enough story for our media – until if fails. On Israel’s terms. The BBC has been taking some 200 calls in an hour from viewers wanting news of the mission – to no avail. So what’s going on?

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Nabi Saleh protest 28-05-2010.wmv

planxtysumoud — 28 mai 2010 — Todays protest was marked by the wanton use of tear gas and sound bombs against the demonstrators by Israeli Occupation Forces, the most egregious; the throwing of a sound bomb by a Border Policeman at a family who were observing the demonstration from, what they imagined the safety of the flat roof on their home but which resulted in head injuries to sixteen year old Ayam Barghouthi which necessitated her hospitalization.

Two other protestors were injured, one from a tear gas projectile fired at his back and the other a broken finger, a fourteen year old was arrested along with his father but but were released after a few hours detention.

The hilltop village of An Nabi Saleh has a population of approximately 500 residents and is located 30 kilometers northeast of Ramallah along highway 465.

The demonstrations protest the illegal seizure of valuable agricultural land and the uprooting in January 2010 of hundreds of the village residents olive trees by the Halamish (Neve Zuf) settlement located opposite An Nabi Saleh.

Conflict between the settlement and villagers reawakened in January 2010 due to the settlers attempt to re-annex An Nabi Saleh land despite an Israeli court decision in December 2009 that awarded the property rights of the land to the An Nabi Saleh residents.

The confiscated land of An Nabi Saleh is located on the Halamish side of Highway 465 and is just one of many expansions of the illegal settlement since its establishment in 1977 http://palsolidarity.org/2010/03/11907 Near the village is a natural spring named Ein Al Kus (“the Bow Spring”). In 2009 settlers from the nearby settlement of Halamish took control over the spring and it’s surroundings while preventing Palestinian access to it.

Subsequently, people of Nabi Salih and the nearby village of Dir Nizam began regular friday protests for the spring which they claim as their own, and against the Israeli occupation in general http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nabi_Salih

Egypt ‘aids in breaking Gaza siege’

AlJazeeraEnglish — 29 mai 2010 — Egypt has often been accused of being a silent partner with Israel in its siege of Gaza by refusing to let goods and people through the Rafah border crossing, between Egypt and Gaza, since the Strip was taken over by Hamas.

However, it is an accusation the country rejects.

Al Jazeera has been given rare access to the Ouja commercial crossing between Egypt and Israel, which Egyptian officials say is a fast track for humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Al Jazeera’s Amr El-Kahky reports from the crossing. (29 May 2010)

Free Gaza latest

Saturday, May 29, 2010

After tremendous pressure from the Greek Cypriots, reneging on their agreement with us http://www.cyprus-mail.com/cyprus/cyprus-stops-mps-joining-gaza-flotilla/20100529, we were forced to take our MPs and activists to Famagusta yesterday, on the Turkish/Cypriot side of Cyprus. We spent all day going from one port to the next, surrounded by helicopters and police. Clearly our deal with Cyprus officials had fallen through, and we ended up being pawns in a political soap opera. The Cypriot members of Parliament, the ones who had worked so hard to get us permission to leave, were outraged. The Greek Parliament members finally told us to go to the North. If they could, they would. The Cypriot government said they made their decision because, “The Republic of Cyprus is fighting for its survival” but it didn’t bow to pressure from Israel. As they said this, they bowed their heads.

We made a deal with the Cypriot government that we would board our high-profile passengers and members of Parliament from Cyprus. We would board with no media coverage. We would not bring our boats into Cyprus. We would take small boats out to our own ships and board past the 12-mile territorial limit.

Authorities mandated that we couldn’t even do that, essentially telling us that, even if we board small boats anywhere in Greek Cyprus from any port, we could not travel outside their territorial limits to go to Gaza. Twenty-seven people were supposed to board, including 9 Cypriots and two Greeks. None of them could come with us as we went North.

Then our two passenger boats mysteriously had mechanical problems at the same time, 3:30 pm. Challenger 2 was able to get 14 delivered to the IHH ship, then limped into the harbor in Limassol after being harassed by Cypriot helicopters http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjGoe3Gi-ns&feature=player_embedded, essentially forbidding us to bring our wounded boat into port.

Our other boat, Challenger 1 headed toward Famagusta with 16 passengers. It, too, was wounded, something wrong with the steering.

By the time we were jerked around yesterday. We had started at 7:00 am. By 10:00 pm, we had nowhere to board, and our boats were out of commission.

But we all have Gaza fever, and no one was giving up.

It has taken us all day to find someone on the Turkish side to ferry some of our passengers out to the flotilla who have been patiently waiting five hours away from Cyprus. At 6:00 pm, 20 of our passengers left for the flotilla, and the Swedish MP and the three German MPs are on board. Hedy is not, and we are heartsick that, once again, she will not be able to go to Gaza.

The flotilla leaves for Gaza early in the morning and should arrive tomorrow afternoon. We have persevered… Al Samoud.

Greta Berlin, Co-Founder
+357 99 18 72 75
witnessgaza.com
http://www.freegaza.org
http://www.flickr.com/photos/freegaza

Gaza aid flotilla departure delayed

The flotilla is aiming to provide aid to Gazans in defiance of an Israeli blockade [EPA]

The departure of a flotilla of aid ships to the Gaza Strip in the occupied Palestinian territories has been delayed.

The ships remained near Cyprus, in the Mediterranean Sea, on Saturday after Israel threatened using force to prevent them reaching Gaza.

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists are on board the flotilla which aims to reach Gaza in defiance of an Israeli embargo on the territory.

A group of 25 European MPs are to join the flotilla, but some reports said that Cypriot authorities were preventing the politicians from leaving land to join the ships further out to sea.

A decision on exactly when a departure might take place was to be taken later on Saturday, Audrey Bomse of the Free Gaza Movement (FGM) told the AFP news agency.

Negotiation
IN DEPTH

Focus: Onboard the Freedom Flotilla
Blog: Israel’s navy will have its work cut out
Aid convoy sets off for Gaza
‘Fighting to break Gaza siege’
Born in Gaza
‘The future of Palestine’
Gazan’s rare family reunion abroad
Making the most of Gaza’s woes

“A final decision is expected to be made about the flotilla’s departure as some people are still trying to negotiate their way on the Turkish ship” in the flotilla, Bomse said.

It was expected that the flotilla would set sail on Saturday but only attempt to land in Gaza on Sunday.

The flotilla “will not approach Gaza until tomorrow [Sunday] because we don’t want to enter during the dark. These problems won’t stop us,” Bomse said.

Thomas Sommer-Houdeville, a French activist on board one of the boats, said: “We are currently sailing to the limits of Cypriot waters to try and negotiate with authorities.”

Sommer-Houdeville said that the Cyprus authorities had briefly detained the captians of the boats that were aiming to take the politicians on board on Friday night.

He said that the captains were later released.

‘Provocation’

The flotilla organisers have said that Cypriot officials have not fulfilled a pledge to let the boats sail from its waters. The activists have alleged that Israeli pressure has swayed the authorities.

Hamas, the de facto rulers of the Gaza Strip, have said that the flotilla was about to make history, sending “a strong message that the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip … will be broken.”

Israel said the boats were embarking on “an act of provocation” with the Israeli military rather than providing aid, and that it had issued warrants to prohibit their entrance to Gaza.

It asserted that the flotilla would be breaking international law by landing in Gaza, a claim the organisers angrily denied.

Israel has said that it will intercept the boats and detain those on board in the port of Ashdod.

source

Bateau sur la Seine pour Gaza

and go here for live show

Gaza Freedom March Prepares Emergency Response for Freedom Flotilla

As the remaining boats of the Freedom Flotilla left for Gaza yesterday, Israel continues to conduct training exercises to stop the convoy “at any cost.” The Freedom Flotilla is expected to arrive at its destination within 48 hours. A violent response from Israel will breathe new life into the Palestine solidarity movement, drawing attention to the blockade. Already in response to Israel’s publicized military threats, the Gaza Freedom March, a coalition focused on breaking the Israeli siege of Gaza, prepares to launch a worldwide emergency campaign consisting of protests, hunger strikes, public relations, and government pressure in the event the peaceful flotilla is attacked or high-jacked by Israel.

Following the technical failure experienced by one of ships from Greece, its passengers have been successfully transferred to the Turkish ship, Mavi Marmara. Eight ships are now en route to Gaza with over 10,000 tons of medical, construction, and school supplies. The flotilla includes some 800 passengers, including 35 MP’s from 15 countries, 20 newscasters, 11 Gaza Freedom Marchers, and various artists and human rights activists.

Gaza Freedom March calls on all world citizens to voice their dissent at Israeli embassies and other points of contact with Israeli officials this week as the flotilla of ships from Ireland, Turkey and Greece loaded with humanitarian aid attempts to dock in Gaza.
Since August 2008 international human rights workers in the Free Gaza Movement have been sending boats to Gaza in order to break the siege. Although the first five voyages successfully docked, the last three attempts have all been violently stopped by the Israeli military.

Israel’s deplorable attacks on unarmed ships are a violation of both international maritime law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which states that “the high seas should be reserved for peaceful purposes.” There is no law or moral code in the world that allows Israel to forcibly prevent unarmed ships from carrying humanitarian and developmental aid to a suffering and occupied people.

The ongoing blockade of the Palestinian population in Gaza constitutes collective punishment of an occupied civilian population; an act strictly prohibited under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which has created a man-made and deliberately sustained humanitarian catastrophe. In December 2008 Israel unleashed a brutal massacre on Gaza and the war crimes committed in the course of “Operation Cast Lead” in Gaza have been judiciously documented in the “Goldstone Report,” an investigation mandated by UNHCR.

Our response must be commensurate with this crisis. Given the sustained failure of the international community to enforce its own laws and protect the people of Gaza, we strongly believe that we have a moral obligation to directly intervene to uphold international principles.

##

For up to date info on the flotilla and endorsers see the following web sites:

http://www.gazafreedommarch.org

http://www.freegaza.org

http://witnessgaza.com

Free Gaza : Press Release 29th May 2010

Famagusta

Fiachra O Luain, Crewmember on Al Samoud, Free Gaza Freedom Flotilla

Our passengers include people from six EU countries and others from the USA. Before departing Dublin, the outgoing EU Ambassador to the USA; His Excellency Mr. John Bruton personally gave me his support for the flotilla stating that ours “is a much needed mission”, wished us well and offered his support. I thanked the former Taoiseach and his wife for their time and interest.

I filmed the Cypriot Police helicopter as it circled and photographed us, before informing us of their orders to forbid us from entering their 12 mile limit, despite the fact that we were experiencing technical difficulties and carrying European parliamentarians.

It is clear that the failure of European governments to successfully oppose the illegal and immoral blockade of Gaza has led to the appalling situation in which Israel has successfully pressurised an EU state into hindering an aid flotilla to Gaza. This is despite the explicit support of John Ging, Head of the UN Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, among other human rights activists and advocates. We urge all European parliamentarians to take tangible action in opposition to the Israeli blockade. Likewise, we call upon Cyprus to reconsider its position.

In addition, we urge Israel to withdraw its threats against this peaceful flotilla and show political maturity by immediately ending its siege of Gaza.

END

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