Freedom Flotilla to Set Sail to Gaza within Hours, say Activist

ATHENS, June 22, 2015 (WAFA) – Freedom Flotilla III, a third initiative organized by international pro-Palestinian activists to break Israel’s 8-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, is expected to set off from Greece to the coastal enclave within hours, said Isam Yousef, coordinator of the Miles of Smiles convoys.

Former Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki, as well as athletes, academicians, parliamentarians of different levels, diplomats, journalists and a Catholic nun, are among the activists on board of the Flotilla.

The first flotilla, which set sail on May 31, 2010, was attacked by Israeli forces who boarded the ships from speedboats and helicopters and killed nine activists, all of whom were Turkish.

The Gaza Strip has been under a tight Israeli naval, land, and aerial blockade for eight years, since Hamas faction won the 2006 parliamentary elections.

Israel, taking firm control over three major checkpoints with Gaza borders, prohibits the entry of hundreds of basic materials, including food items, construction materials, medical supplies, and pharmaceuticals.

Last August, Israel and Palestinian factions inked a ceasefire deal, ending the latest 2014 summer deadly Israeli onslaught on Gaza, which claimed the lives of over 2,200 people, overwhelmingly civilians.

The ceasefire deal stipulated that Israel would immediately ease the blockade imposed on the strip and expand the fishing zone off Gaza’s coast, allowing fishermen to sail as far as six nautical miles from shore, and would continue to expand the area gradually. Israel has nonetheless continued the blockade.

However, Israel did not commit  the ceasefire deal and continued its targeting of Palestinian fishermen and farmers in farmlands along the borders.