Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla sails from Spain to raise awareness about Israeli siege

Ahram Online , Friday 29 Jun 2018

Solidarity events were held in the Spanish seaport of Cadiz to raise awareness about the 11-year-old Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip.

After gathering in Spain, Gaza Freedom Flotilla ships set sail on Thursday from the seaport of Cadiz for the port of Cagliari in Italy on its journey to Gaza to raise awareness about the 11-year-old Israeli siege of the Strip.

The flotilla trips are organised by the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, an international coalition composed of civil society organisations and initiatives challenging the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Some solidarity events were held in the Spanish city to raise awareness about the siege of the Strip and the suffering of its people.

The ships stopped at some European ports in Denmark, Britain and Spain. The last two European stops will be in Italy and Greece, before their last leg to Gaza.

Previous flotilla ships have been stopped in international waters by Israeli naval forces and prevented from reaching Gaza.

This nonviolent direct action aims to raise international awareness and put pressure on the international community to end the brutal blockade.

An Israeli naval and land blockade has restricted the movement of approximately two million Palestinians and goods to and from Gaza since the Islamist Hamas movement won parliamentary elections and became the Strip's de-facto ruler in 2006.

The first attempt to break the siege with a flotilla, which was organised in 2010, ended in the killing by Israeli forces of nine activists in international waters on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara.

The blockade is worsening humanitarian conditions in Gaza, which human rights advocates have described as collective punishment of the Palestinians living in the strip.

The Gaza Strip faces an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, caused by over 10 years of Israeli blockade, alongside an internal Palestinian divide, which worsened in 2017, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

"These developments have triggered further deterioration in the humanitarian situation, impacting the availability of essential services and eroding the livelihoods of Gaza’s two million residents," the OCHA said.

A Household Expenditure and Consumption Survey, released by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) in May, showed a significant increase in poverty rates in Gaza, from 38.8 percent in 2011 to 53 percent by the end of 2017.

In the wake of the ‘Great March of Return’ demonstrations, which started on 30 March, Gaza’s already overstretched health sector has been struggling to cope with the mass influx of casualties.

At least 135 Palestinians have been killed and thousands injured by Israeli occupation forces during the protests near the border with Israel. No Israelis have been killed or injured in the protests.

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