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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Flotilla ready to set sail ]

Flotilla ready to set sail

Author: 
George Psyllides

A FLOTILLA of pro-Palestinian activists was yesterday preparing to leave for Gaza, to break an Israeli blockade, despite warnings from Israel, which is scrambling its gunships to intercept them.

The flotilla, which has been delayed in international waters off Cyprus for technical reasons, was expected to head to Gaza midnight Saturday.

“They’re in place and they’re expecting to leave midnight tonight (Saturday) for Gaza,” Greta Berlin, one of the organisers told the Sunday Mail.

They were expected to be joined in international waters later Saturday by 20 more activists - including MPs from Germany, Sweden and Belgium - who travelled to the Turkish-occupied port of Famagusta, and boarded a boat there after the Cypriot government banned vessels from Cyprus to contact the flotilla.

This is the eighth time activists have tried to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. On the seven other occasions, the aid ships left from Cyprus.

The boat at Famagusta port was part of the flotilla but had experienced mechanical problems and sailed there for repairs, before the MPs could board it following Friday’s ban.

A second vessel, suffered the same fate and ended up in Limassol, escorted by the marine police.

“Our two yachts both ended up with mechanical problems at the same time,” Berlin said. “It is suspicious.”

Reports out of Israel said gunships were preparing to intercept the flotilla of five vessels, including a cruise ship, before they reached the coast of Gaza.

Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent Hamas – an Islamist resistance movement - which has fired hundreds of rockets into the country, from rearming.

“I feel like I’m in an Alice in Wonderland story,” Berlin said of the gunships. “For what? Twenty per cent of us are over 60. We’re going to face you with our backpacks.”

According to the Associated Press, the Israeli military said it will intercept the flotilla, escort the vessels to shore and give the 700 activists the choice of deportation or jail.

Israel said that after a security check, it will transfer the around 10,000 tonnes of aid to Gaza through the United Nations.

One of the activists, an Italian passport holder, was yesterday morning taken to Larnaca hospital with heart problems.

Cypriot police initially tried to airlift Abdel Jaber Ttamini, 45, but the winch on the helicopter malfunctioned and a patrol boat had to be scrambled to collect the Italian and an officer who was left stranded.

The man was finally taken to hospital after around two hours.

Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza in 2007 after Hamas came to power in the impoverished Palestinian territory.



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



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