Israel warns humanitarian activists over Gaza
Israeli foreign ministry says will not allow Free Gaza Boat Expedition to bring humanitarian goods.
ATHENS - Israel has warned a group of humanitarian activists sailing for the Gaza Strip to break a year-long blockade to steer clear of the territory, the Israeli embassy in Athens said on Tuesday.
“The area to which you are planning to sail is the subject of an (Israeli Navy) advisory notice which warns all foreign vessels to remain clear of the designated maritime zone,” the Israeli foreign ministry said in an open letter to the participants of the Free Gaza Boat Expedition.
Ruled since June 2007 by Hamas, a democratically elected movement that seeks to liberate the Palestinian territories from the long and brutal Israeli occupation, the Gaza Strip has been under an intense Israeli blockade.
Israel’s move to tighten its siege on Gaza was criticised by much of the international community and dubbed by human rights groups as “collective punishment”.
The California-based Free Gaza Movement says Israel’s aid supply record is “deplorable”.
“Israel’s deplorable track record of delivering supplies is, in fact, the very reason for our mission,” the group said in a letter to the ministry.
The group plans to sail two Greek caiques, or fishing boats, into Gaza carrying 40 human rights workers from 16 different nations.
The mission includes an 81-year-old Catholic nun, an 84-year-old Nazi concentration camp survivor, Palestinians from Gaza and Israeli citizens, organisers said.
“They will also deliver hearing aids “for children who have lost some or all of their hearing from Israeli sound bombs and sonic booms.”
The caiques on August 13 sailed from the Greek island of Crete for Cyprus, their last port of call before reaching Gaza.
Formed two years ago, the Free Gaza Movement ( www.freegaza.org) is composed of human rights activists, aid workers and journalists.