'Freedom Flotilla' to challenge Gaza blockade

Freedom Flotilla Coalition declare intention to sail a fleet of ships to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza in 2014.

Freedom Flotilla Coalition declare intention to sail a fleet of ships to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza in 2014.

ISTANBUL - Four years after an attempt by a flotilla to break Israel's siege on Gaza ended in disaster, a "Freedom Flotilla Coalition" has declared its intention to sail boats loaded with humanitarian aid to the strip, on an as-yet undeclared date this year.

"The flotilla will leave in 2014," Durmus Aydin of the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) told a packed press conference at its Istanbul headquarters Tuesday. ”Hundreds of thousands [of people] from around the world support our work. We will work until the blockade is lifted. We act to support the Palestinian people.”

The flotilla is being planned as Israel’s military invasion of Gaza, which has lasted for more than a month, continues, IHH members again intending to challenge Israel's seven-year blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The Turkish NGO was also the sponsor of the 2010 flotilla that was intercepted by Israeli forces, killing ten activists, including nine Turkish nationals and a Turkish-American citizen on one of the ships, the Mavi Marmara. 

Asked if the flotilla would need a military escort, Dror Feiler, an Israeli-born Swedish spokesman for the Flotilla Coalition, said "We don't want it."

"If some countries want to help the Gazans, they can help by acting to end the blockade through governmental and diplomatic means. We are a civil society group and act through civil means.”

Ann Ighe, a Swedish spokeswoman for Ship to Gaza Sweden -- also taking part in the coalition -- said it is still undecided as to what boats and how many would take part.

 “We haven't decided on all the boats in the flotilla. We have decided to seek a very international [coalition] to be on the boats."

Asked as to how flotilla members would react should Israel again intervene, Feiler responded, "We are ready to sacrifice our lives for freedom. Even if the Israelis sacrifice us again, we will come again. We cannot be threatened." 

She added that after 2010 there had been some easing of the blockade. 

"(This) could be said was a result of the flotilla, but the blockade continues, so we sail again... This is civil disobedience."

Since 2007, Israel has imposed a strict naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

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