Freedom Flotilla, a group of ships from various countries, including Ireland, Turkey and Greece, started their journey towards the Gaza strip, carrying over 700 activists, diplomats, politicians and journalists, as well as about 10,000 tons of aid.
The goal of the voyage is said to be breaking the maritime blockade on the Gaza Strip.
“We’re trying to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip and tell the world that Israel has no right to starve 1.5 million Palestinians,” Greta Berlin was quoted as saying to the Guardian before the voyage.
She is an activist of the Free Gaza Movement, which together with other human rights organizations, including the Turkish Relief Foundation (IHH) and the European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza coordinated the action.
The ships sailing for Gaza carry reconstruction, medical and educational supplies and were planned to dock in Gaza on Saturday, defying the Isaraeli blockade. After getting held up outside of Cyprus on Saturday as additional passengers, including 17 European legislators and a Holocaust survivor, were prevented from boarding one of the ships, the flotilla is expected to reach Gaza on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Israel Defence Forces, IDF, are preparing to intercept the ships as soon as they enter a 20-mile Israeli-controlled zone off Gaza.
MFA: The action does nothing to help people
The official Israeli channels dismiss the flotilla as a publicity stunt, but still one worth commenting on. Yigal Palmor , The Israeli the spokesman of Foreign Affairs, MFA, issued a statement about the Freedom Flotilla, saying that the action will do nothing to aid the people of Gaza, ensuring that the “existing land crossings are more than capable of meeting their needs.”
“Israel has invited the organizers of the flotilla to use the land crossings, in the same manner as all the reputable international organizations. However, they are less interested in bringing in aid than in promoting their radical agenda, playing into the hands of Hamas provocations.”
On the homepage of the MFA, one can also read about the humanitarian aid to Gaza in the past year and a half, supporting the claim that there is no humanitarian crisis.
However, this stands in contrast to reports by numerous international organisations and especially the UN Office for the Coordination of the Humanitarian Affaires, Occupied Palestine Territory which publishes the weekly reports highlighting the negative impact on the lives of the people of Gaza as a result of the blockade.
EU issues a statement
The EU is unusually quick to react. Catherine Ashton, the EU the High Representative-designate for foreign affaires, issued on Friday a statement on the flotilla, encouraging “a sense of restraint and responsibility” and repeating EU’s call for an immediate opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza.
Water ripples of the Freedom Flotilla’s voyage to Gaza are not only reaching the media outlets in the region, but also most the international media, the exception being the BBC – which on Saturday afternoon had no accounts of the event.
Freedom Flotilla – a hot topic
Even more active are the discussions in the different platforms of the social media. The topic (#flotilla, #freegaza) receives hundreds of tweets each minute and the blogs are overflowing with posts following the voyage.
Publicity stunt or not, the Freedom flotilla seems to have caused a stir, putting the Gaza blockade yet again on the agenda.