Free Gaza Movement member defies Netanyahu threats

Ahram Online, Sunday 3 Apr 2011

The European campaign to end the siege on Gaza says Israel bankrupt in facing fleet headed for Gaza in May, warns Israel of interception

Turkish cruise ship Mavi Marmara, carrying pro-Palestinian activists and humanitarian aid to Gaza, leaves from Sarayburnu port in Istanbul on May 22, 2010, (Reuters).

The European campaign to end the siege on Gaza (ECESG), one of the bodies in the Free Gaza Movement organizing a second flotilla to break the Israeli siege on Gaza this May, expressed its insistence on carrying on its plans to sail despite Israeli threats.

Israel had asked the United Nations on Friday to help prevent activists sailing to Gaza on the first anniversary of the bloody Israeli seizure of a Turkish ship that tried to reach the blockaded Palestinian enclave.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office quoted him telling UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that a mission of around 15 ships expected in late May "was being organised by Islamic extremist elements, among others, with the goal of creating a provocation and bringing about a flare-up".

Rami Abdo, a member of the European movement, said on Friday that Netanyahu’s move “only means bankruptcy in facing the fleet,” according to al-Shark al-Awsat newspaper, citing the Palestinian independent new agency Safa.

Abdo added that the ECESG trust in Ki-moon absolute support for the flotilla movement which is in line with international norms and international law.

“If they continue in their campaign against us, we will become more determined to continue in our path, they should read history and learn from the experiences of nations that fought peacefully until they achieved independence,” said Abdo.  

Abdo then assured that any move to disrupt the flotilla “ would be considered a violation of the international law, and it should be dealt with by world governments on this basis.”

“The Israeli occupation will realize at the moment the fleet sets sail to Gaza that its plans and media machines were a failure and weaker than it imagined,” said Abdo, making clear that this time the participation on the flotilla is larger than before, comprising participants from over 12 countries.

The Free Gaza Movement, a pro-Palestinian activist umbrella group, said the May flotilla would comprise 15 ships with international passengers including Europeans and Americans.

Citing security needs, the Israeli navy stopped a six-vessel flotilla in international waters on 31 May 2010 as it tried to reach Gaza, which is governed by the Hamas Islamist group.

Marines killed nine Turkish activists aboard the lead ship, fraying Israel's once-strong ties to Ankara.

Israel has since eased commercial traffic over its land crossings with Gaza, many of whose 1.5 million Palestinians are aid-dependant, but still keeps close control of the sea access.

Rights groups and international aid organanizations had argued that the "eased" blockade has done very well to improve Gaza's impoverished population.

Regarding the new sailing, Netanyahu said Israel was "committed to acting firmly against the flotilla," according to the statement. It did not say what the prime minister expected the United Nations to do.

The United Nations has welcomed measures to relax some trade barriers with Gaza, but wants the blockade, supported by neighbouring Egypt, to be removed entirely.

Gaza was devastated by a 2008-2009 Israeli military campaign killing around 1,400 Palestinians, most of which were civilians, and 13 Israelis. The territory has seen spikes in violence since, with shootings, bulldozings, and combing operations as well as airstrikes on Israel's part. Gazan home-made rockets have also been fired into Israeli territory.

The Free Gaza Movement has called the blockade illegal and flagged persistent Palestinian poverty in the territory.

It has championed non-violent political action in a comprehensive challenge to Israel.

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