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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Flotilla of aid for Gaza to set sail from Cyprus ]

Flotilla of aid for Gaza to set sail from Cyprus

TEN SHIPS loaded with building and educational supplies will set sail for Gaza from Cyprus next month, the largest operation of its kind to date.

Two of them, cargo ships, will be laden with timber and cement – materials needed for reconstruction following the destruction wrought by Israel’s military operations in Gaza in January 2009.

“Due to the shortage of water purification systems, which Israel does not allow into Gaza, we’re on the verge of a major outbreak of disease. This is just one of the items we shall be taking with us. Others will be stationery and books,” chairperson for the Free Gaza movement, Huwaida Arraf said.

“The main focus will be on reconstruction and education,” she added.

Though the quantity of materials on the new trip will be significant, Arraf was quick to point that the Free Gaza Movement is not an aid group.

Previous trips by the group taking aid to Gaza have led to international incidents and the use of weapons.

In December 2008, Israeli warships rammed the organisation’s vessel then fired machine guns in the water.

Israel claimed that the boat had failed to respond to Israeli naval radio contact and was attempting to outmanoeuvre the warships when the vessels collided. Not having enough fuel to return to Cyprus, the boat docked in Lebanon, severely damaged.

During the last mission, in June 2009, the Israeli Navy commandeered a vessel off the coast of Gaza, later issuing a statement saying the boat had attempted to break a blockade of Gaza. The boat was forced to sail to an Israeli port after ignoring a radio message to stay out of Gaza waters. The Spirit of Humanity was towed to Ashdod and the crew was detained pending deportation proceedings. Activists on board included former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and the Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire. They were heading toward Gaza with three tons of medical supplies and a symbolic load of construction materials.

“It’s different this time – Israel has shown that it is willing to use violent means. That’s why it’s important that we don’t stop, that we don’t give in to the notion that military might prevails,” said Arraf.

The mission will have the character of an international convoy, with the participation of civil society organisations from over 20 countries, including Malaysia, Greece and Turkey.

Logistical details, such as the date are yet to be finalised. Arraf said they were looking at sometime between late April and early May. The boats would set sail from “one or two ports in the Mediterranean,” she offered.

As far as drawing power goes, Arraf said they hoped to have on board a number of parliamentarians from Europe, Latin America and Southeast Asia.

The Free Gaza Movement is an international human rights organisation formed in 2006 by a coalition of pro-Palestinian human rights organisations and activists for the purpose of publicising the Israeli blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip after the election of Hamas.

Activists also aim to draw attention to the worsening plight of Gaza’s Palestinians following the closure of the Rafah border crossing by Egypt and Israel, as a result of which very few goods can make it into the strip.

Israel allows daily shipments of food, medicine and other supplies, but humanitarian aid organisations say it is nowhere near enough for the needs of the population. Israelis are also prohibiting new cement from entering the strip. A recent report by the BBC highlighted a factory in Gaza that recycles rubble into cement, while other Gazans are building mud huts to replace their demolished dwellings.



(Source: Cyprus Mail)
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2008 Please contact Cyprus Mail for the copyright terms of this article.



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