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A Scream to the Whole World: Gaza Boats Carrying Students, Medical Patients, and Wounded Protesters Attempt to Break the Bloc

World  (tags: Break the Siege oN Gaza, Gaza boats, WHO, Cyprus, Oslo accords, Great March of Return, humanitarian, ethnic cleansing of Palestine, Gaza massacre 2018, Gazan fisherman, Refugees&Relief, middle-east, world,, A’laa el Batta, Palestinian HumanRights )

- 136 days ago -
Five hours after leaving the dock, the Israeli Navy intercepted the boats arresting 17 passengers while they were 9 nautical miles off the shores of Gaza, according to the International Committee to Break the Siege on Gaza.


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fly bird (26)
Wednesday June 6, 2018, 9:10 am
‘A scream to the whole world’: Gaza boats carrying students, medical patients, and wounded protesters attempt to break the blockade

For a first time since 1967, two wooden boats set off from Gaza heading to Cyprus on Tuesday, charting their course in protest of Israel’s decade long siege.

Five hours after leaving the dock, the Israeli Navy intercepted the boats arresting 17 passengers while they were 9 nautical miles off the shores of Gaza, according to the International Committee to Break the Siege on Gaza. Since Israel began its blockade of Gaza in 2007, Palestinian boats have not been allowed past 12 nautical miles from the shore.

Israel is obligated to permit fishing up to 20 nautical miles according to the Oslo Accords, however, Gaza’s fisherman have never been allowed this distance.

Head of the Committee, A’laa el Batta, told Mondoweiss the vessels carried the passengers who are university graduates, medical patients seeking treatment abroad, and protesters from the Great March of Return who were wounded with live-fire.

Batta said over the past two weeks Israeli forces attacked two other boats that organizes had intended to use for the initiative.

(Photo: Mohammed Asad)

(Photo: Mohammed Asad)

(Photo: Mohammed Asad)

One boat, dubbed the al-Hurriyeh (Freedom), was named as a symbolic gesture to commemorate the eighth anniversary of the Israeli raid of the Mavi Marmara, a ship where Israeli commandoes killed nine Turkish and one Turkish-American on May 31, 2010 as they attempted to break the siege on Gaza.

Early this morning, spirits were hight as the passengers loaded the boats in Gaza with luggage, bringing along their travel documents ready to leave for good. El Batta said arrangements were made to provide the some with medical treatment in Turkey.

Two deaf passengers, Ahmad Abu Oudeh, 32, and Mohammed al-Khaldi, 31, said they were seeking cochlear implants abroad as Gaza’s hospitals are not equipped to conduct this otherwise routine surgery.

“I want to restore my hearing, I don’t want to give up… all methods should be exhausted,” Al-Khaldi said using sign language.

Al-Khaldi and Abu Oudeh waved to a crowd of thousands on the shores, some enthusiastic to join the cruise.

A total of 54 Palestinians in Gaza died awaiting exit permits in 2017 from the Israeli authorities, according World Health Organization, in what rights activists call an overly bureaucratic system that deprives Palestinians of their right to healthcare.

Ahmad Abu Oudeh, and Mohammed al-Khaldi. (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Salma al-Qadoumi. (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Others were boarded looking to pursue education outside of Gaza.

Salma al-Qadoumi, 27, was noticeably tense as the journey started. She wants to finish her master degree in Istanbul, but said that she can not afford the exit bribes many pay to Palestinian middlemen as a means of black market safe passage through the Rafah crossing to Egypt.

“I have been banned to travel via Erez checkpoint for security reasons,” she told Mondoweiss, referring to the Israeli crossing at the north of the Gaza Strip.

The rate she said she would have to pay to leave through Egypt runs between $2,500 – $3,000 per trip, locally it is called “Egyptian coordination.”

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights estimates the blockade prevents 95 percent of Gaza’s population from traveling abroad or to the West Bank.

(Photo: Mohammed Asad)

(Photo: Mohammed Asad)

(Photo: Mohammed Asad)

(Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Today’s boat trips come hours after a barrage of mortar fire from the Gaza Strip and Israeli airstrikes, and nine weeks of protests where at least 113 Palestinians were killed and thousands more injured along the Gaza Strip’s eastern border.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to “respond with great force” after nearly 30 rounds were fired into Israel.

Organizers of the flotilla reportedly warned participants to expect Israel to use force to prevent the flotilla from breaching the blockade.

“This bid is a scream to the whole world that the Gaza seaport should again carry passengers and goods to Haifa and Jaffa, it is a scream again that the Gaza’s people will not afford the life under blockade,” said Adham Abu Selmeyeh, a spokesman for the Committee.

Jason Greenblatt, the United States’ Special Representative for International Negotiations, blasted Hamas ahead of the attempt by Gazans to breach Israel’s naval blockade on Gaza.

In a series of tweets, Greenblatt wrote, “Shame on all involved in inciting the so called “reverse flotilla” today. Hamas treats this like a play being acted out for a live media audience. But these are real lives Hamas is cynically risking in a grim bid to hold on to power.”

Since 2007, the Gaza Strip has groaned under a crippling Israeli – Egyptian siege that has gutted its economy and deprived its roughly two million inhabitants of many vital commodities, including food, fuel and medicine.

Kathleen M (211)
Wednesday June 6, 2018, 11:54 am
Grimly S&N. F***ing thugs and war criminals in both Israel and the US! Thx for posting Fly B.

Colleen L (3)
Wednesday June 6, 2018, 4:31 pm
Ditto Kathleen's comment. Thanks Fly

fly bird (26)
Thursday June 7, 2018, 1:51 pm
Freedom Flotilla: All You Need to Know (VIDEOS)
June 7, 2018

The International Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC) is “a grassroots people-to-people solidarity movement composed of campaigns and initiatives from all over the world working together to end the blockade of Gaza.”

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition was formed after the 2010 Freedom Flotilla mission, in order to coordinate action between numerous local campaigns that joined the efforts against the siege of the Gaza Strip, although the first mission to challenge Israeli naval blockade of Gaza dates back to 2008.

On August 23, 2008, 44 ordinary people from 17 different countries sailed from Cyprus to Gaza on two small wooden boats, the Free Gaza, and the Liberty.

From 2008 through 2016, international activists have sailed 31 boats to challenge the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza.

On January 12-15, 2009, the ferry boat called The Spirit of Humanity with 36 passengers, was forced by the Israeli navy to turn back and return to Cyprus.

In February 2009, the cargo ship Tali was attacked by the Israeli Army and forcefully taken to Israel.

On June 29-July 7, 2009, the Spirit of Humanity was forcefully stopped by Israeli forces. Its 21 passengers were taken to Israeli prison and deported, and the boat taken to Israeli harbor of Haifa.

The Gaza Flotilla Raid (2010)

In 2010, Israeli forces launched the Gaza Flotilla Raid, a military operation against the civilian ships of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, which were supposed to challenge the Israeli naval blockade.

Israeli military violently attacked all 7 boats, killing 9 on the Mavi Marmara with another passenger dying later, and wounding over 50. Passengers on all boats were assaulted, kidnapped and taken against their will to Israel where they were interrogated, imprisoned and deported.

These are the names of the ten humanitarians killed by Israeli forces:

Ibrahim Bilgen
Ali Haydar Bengi
Cevdet Kiliçlar
Çetin Topçuoglu
Necdet Yildirim
Fahri Yaldiz
Cengiz Songür
Cengiz Akyüz
Furkan Dogan
Ugur Suleyman Soylemez

The Gaza’s Ark Project (2013-2014)

After several international missions, in 2013 and 2014, with financial and logistical support from friends around the world, Palestinian workers transformed a 25-meter long fishing boat into a cargo boat to sail out of Palestine from the port of Gaza City, launching the so-called Gaza’s Ark project.

Gaza’s Ark challenged the blockade by working with Palestinians on the ground, together bringing hope and empowerment to the besieged community.

However, in the early morning of April 29, 2014, an explosion occurred on the boat and extensive damage was caused.

However, Gaza Ark’s organizers were determined to continue to work on the project.

On July 8, 2014, Israel launched the military offensive ‘Protective Edge’, which killed more than two thousand people, injured thousands more and caused massive destruction across the Gaza Strip.

On July 10, 2014, Gaza’s Ark was hit by a missile and was quickly destroyed by flames.

Women’s Boat to Gaza (2016)

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition has launched the Women’s Boat to Gaza (WBG) to highlight the vital role women play not only in the resistance movement but in the survival of the Palestinian people as a whole.

WBG’s mission is to raise awareness about the ongoing struggle that women in Gaza, in the West Bank, inside the so-called Green Line, and in the shatat (diaspora), have waged and continue to wage against Israeli Occupation.

2018, “The Return”

2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the Nakba (the Catastrophe) – the forced displacement of the native Palestinian population from their homeland, later renamed Israel.

In 2018 the International Freedom Coalition has set sail again to challenge the blockade.

This year, the main ship is named Al Awda (The Return) to underline the importance of the Palestinian right to return to the lands they have been expelled from.

(PC, Social Media)

fly bird (26)
Friday June 8, 2018, 9:16 pm
Flotilla Continues Towards Gaza to Challenge the Blockade
June 2, 2018

This is the second report from Elizabeth Murray who is aboard a new flotilla to protest the illegality of the 12-year blockade that is choking Gaza.

By Elizabeth Murray Special to Consortium News
Aboard the Al-Awda at port in Amsterdam

We are possibly a more motley crew than the passengers aboard the S.S.Minnow in the old U.S. TV series Gilligan’s Island: Among those who have joined us on one or more legs of the journey to Gaza as part of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC) are activists hailing from Spain, Israel, Norway, Malaysia, Canada (First Nations), Denmark and the United States.

Despite our diverse ages and backgrounds we have some important things in common: minds that comprehend the crimes and human rights violations being committed daily against the people of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories; hearts that feel deeply the pain of those whose basic freedoms have been denied for 70 years; and consciences that want to find a nonviolent way to reach out to these people, right the wrongs of the Gaza blockade, and achieve a measure of justice.

Political representatives have failed repeatedly through a lack of the political and moral courage to secure justice for a people facing 70 years of sustained, brutal subjugation by a foreign power, Israel. Thus the international Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC) sails again.

This time the FFC will not attempt to deliver medical supplies or foodstuffs to the suffering people of Gaza. Past experience with previous FFC missions indicates that such materials will likely never end up in Gaza, or will arrive in spoiled or damaged condition. Instead, the Al-Awda will deliver itself – a refurbished Norwegian fishing boat – as a solidarity offering to the fisherman of Gaza. They are shot at and harassed on a daily basis, prevented from feeding their families, and have their fishing boats regularly seized and destroyed by Israel.

There is so much misery in Gaza that could easily be alleviated since nearly all of it is either deliberately manufactured by Israel (such as the bombing of sewage plants, the electricity grid, Gaza harbor, the undrinkable water) or is an immediate by-product of Israeli policy (widespread post-traumatic stress disorder and associated mental illnesses, a spike in the rates of cancer, once extremely rare among Palestinians).

The economic blockade, the restrictions on foodstuffs and construction materials, the travel bans, and the sealed borders are all aided and abetted by Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, an ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Under al-Sisi the Rafah border to Egypt – the only non-Israeli outlet available to the Palestinians of Gaza seeking medical aid or travel abroad – is almost always closed. These blatant violations of human rights and the Geneva Convention have occurred with the complicit wink of the U.S. and Europe, whose weapons manufacturers profit handsomely from their arms sales to Israel.

The relegation of Palestinians to a less-than-human status by Israel, in particular the inhabitants of Gaza who are perpetually locked into an open-air prison and subject to the Israeli blockade, was underscored by MIT professor Noam Chomsky after a 2012 visit to Gaza to attend an academic conference. In comments broadcast by Democracy Now on Nov. 14, 2012, Chomsky remarked:

“It’s kind of amazing … and inspiring to see people managing somehow to survive … as essentially caged animals subject to constant, random, sadistic punishment – only to humiliate them – no pretext. They [the Palestinians] would like to have dignified lives, but the standard Israeli position is that they shouldn’t raise their heads.”

In Wilhelmshaven

During our ports of call in Germany, visitors to Al-Awda told us that many German politicians as well as ordinary Germans are reluctant to speak out against human rights abuses against Palestinians because they say that if they do, they will be branded as anti-Semitic and possibly have their lives and careers ruined by this smear.

Listening to these German citizens express their solidarity with the FFC mission in passionate, yet hushed tones, one cannot but think back to the suppression of free speech by the Communist-era East German government that was fiercely enforced by the secret police known as the Stasi. One can only deplore the practice of self-censorship that has become widespread in what is supposed to be a free and democratic, united Germany. It also underscores the powerful political pressure that Israel brings to bear on many European countries. Of course, Germany’s uniquely evil treatment of Jews historically makes it only natural that Germans would be reluctant to criticize Israel.

Shortly before we departed from Wilhelmshaven, Germany we were visited by Georg, a human rights advocate and photographer affiliated with the “Bundesverband Arbeiterfotographie.” who made the 50-mile road trip from Bremen to take photos, express support and offer a generous personal donation to the Freedom Flotilla mission before rushing back to Bremen to collect his 9-year-old son from school. He said: “I rushed over as soon as I heard about you.”

We also met Timo, a German trade union leader and youth organizer, who volunteered his time and talents to take care of some technical problems aboard the boat. Timo, who also hails from Bremen, spent an entire day driving around to half a dozen specialty maritime and hardware supply stores in Wilhelmshaven to help us obtain the proper parts; he then worked tirelessly until all was “shipshape.” When we offered to compensate him for his time and trouble, he refused, saying: “Let this be my small contribution toward peace.”

Meanwhile, the Palestinian-German community in Wilhelmshaven showered us with gifts of home-made Palestinian delicacies and serenaded us with singing, dancing and playing of the oud, a classical Palestinian stringed instrument. They thanked us for making this journey, saying they only wish they could join us and return to their original homes and villages. Their love and affection for our mission is overwhelming.

In Amsterdam we were feted by local peace and social justice activists who hosted a dinner of traditional Palestinian food. After a very rough night at sea en route to Amsterdam – during which the Al-Awda tossed and pitched amid enormous swells – we are grateful to be here in calm waters, enjoying the warm hospitality of the local human rights community.

We aim to approach Gaza harbor unimpeded, so that our supporters there can receive us as well.

Elizabeth Murray served as Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East in the National Intelligence Council before retiring after a 27-year career in the U.S. government, where she specialized in Middle Eastern political and media analysis. She is a member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
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