Hamas calls on Greece to let Gaza flotilla set sail

AFP , Sunday 3 Jul 2011

The Hamas government in Gaza has called on Greek authorities to allow an international flotilla to set sail towards Gaza aiming to break Israel's years long siege

The Hamas government in Gaza on Sunday called on Greece to allow a flotilla of aid ships to set sail for the blockaded Palestinian coastal territory.

"We regret the position of Greece, which has responded to international pressure to stop the Freedom Flotilla from sailing," Hamas Foreign Minister Mohamed Awad told a press conference at Gaza City's port.

"We call on them to reconsider their ban on the flotilla setting sail and to allow them to leave," he added.

Several ships participating in the so-called Freedom Flotilla have been forced to remain docked in Greece after local authorities warned that they did not have permission to set sail for Gaza.

The ships, chartered by pro-Palestinian activists, are seeking to break an Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip and are loaded with items ranging from aid to letters from supporters.

But the flotilla has been plagued by setbacks, including Greece's refusal to let several ships head out to sea, and the discovery that at least two vessels had been damaged. Activists have accused Israel of sabotaging the ships and putting political pressure on Greece to prevent the vessels from leaving shore.

Israel has denied any sabotage of the ships, but ministers have expressed satisfaction at the flotilla's difficulties. Tel Aviv warned that it would not allow the ships to break its blockade of the Hamas-run territory.

In 2010, Israeli commandos raided a flotilla of aid ships seeking to reach Gaza in an operation that left nine Turkish citizens dead and prompted widespread criticism of Israel.

In the wake of the criticism, Israel eased some of its restrictions on Gaza, loosening a blockade it imposed after Gaza-based militants captured an Israeli soldier in 2006. The rules were tightened in 2007 when Hamas seized control of Gaza.

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