This year’s Freedom Flotilla hopes its voyage “will open the channels for others to travel to Palestine and, more importantly, for the Palestinian people to use their own territorial waters for fishing, other maritime resources, travel, exports and imports.”
GAZA — Not long after the 2018 Freedom Flotilla — carrying “politicians, activists, journalists, trade-union leaders, artists and performers, professors, faith leaders, representatives of student organizations” — embarked on its journey from Scandinavia to the largest open-air prison in the world — Gaza — Israel attempted to thwart its plans by striking a boat in Gaza City that was preparing to meet the flotilla upon its arrival.
No casualties have been reported from the Israeli attack this Wednesday.
The 2018 Freedom Flotilla is part of a movement to demonstrate solidarity with Gaza, in an attempt to break Israel’s illegal blockade by transporting activists to the Strip, drawing international media attention to the humanitarian crisis there in the process. This year’s flotilla hopes its voyage “will open the channels for others to travel to Palestine and, more importantly, for the Palestinian people to use their own territorial waters for fishing, other maritime resources, travel, exports and imports.”
The flotilla plans to donate its boats to the local community upon arrival. Israel began enforcing the illegal blockade of Gaza in 2006, after the Palestinian Authority lost the election to Hamas, as punishment to Palestinians.
The flotilla has plans to stop at ports in Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal and Italy. According to passenger and Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity-member Elizabeth Murray, the flotilla hopes “to raise awareness and educate people about the plight of Palestinians, especially in Gaza, who are denied the basic freedoms and human rights the rest of us take for granted.”
A new Israeli pretext for the same old aggressive behavior
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said the airstrikes were carried out in response to a group breaking through the Israel-Gaza border on Tuesday and subsequently setting a military post on fire. The IDF said locations “belonging to the Hamas terror organization’s naval force” and “underground terror infrastructure” were targeted in the strikes.
The strikes were in response to the event that took place yesterday morning, when a number of terrorists infiltrated Israel and set a military post on fire
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) May 23, 2018
The IDF views these continued attempts with great severity, specifically Hamas’ daily attempts to damage Israeli security infrastructure & threats to the safety of Israeli civilians. The IDF is determined to fulfil its mission to protect Israeli civilians
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) May 23, 2018
Locals claim the boat was targeted because it was planning to meet the flotilla on its way to Gaza. Israel maintains a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has prevented aid flotillas carrying food and basic humanitarian supplies like toilet paper, clean water, and school items like crayons and pencils from reaching shore during previous attempts to help the nearly 1.8 million Palestinians affected by the siege.
In recent years numerous attempts have been made to reach the Gaza Strip by boat but the vessels have always been seized or forced to turn back by Israel — the most notable example being the assault on the Freedom Flotilla originating from Turkey in 2010.
Participating in the flotilla were 600 aid workers and NGO officials from 50 different countries, shepherding a cargo of 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid set on reaching Gaza via the Mediterranean Sea.
In the early morning hours on May 31, 2010, Israeli commandos stormed the flotilla of ships while it was in international waters. Some of the unarmed passengers resisted Israel’s attempt to hijack the ships, resulting in a firefight that killed nine Turkish citizens and injured nearly 50 additional passengers. Israel blocked the ship’s radio communications during the attack.
Immediately following the attack, the flotilla was escorted into an Israeli port, where passengers were held in detention facilities before being deported.
On May 15 of this year, the flotilla’s three ships left Gothenburg, Sweden after a solidarity ceremony involving hundreds of activists in honor of Nakba Day, marking the 70th anniversary of the forced displacement of Palestinians. The three ships, Al-Awda, Heria and Maird, will be joined by a fourth ship, Palestine, in the coming weeks.
According to the coalition’s website, the flotilla is being led by a fishing boat “named Al-Awda (The Return) to underline the importance of this long-standing demand of Palestinians for the right to return to the lands they have been expelled from.”
The journey is expected to take approximately 75 days.
Top Photo | The Al Awda, a vessel sailing to Gaza as part of the 2018 Freedom Flotilla. (Photo: Freedom Flotilla Coalition)
Emma Fiala is MPN’s Editorial Assistant and social media guru. She is also a documentary photographer, mom of two, and an independent journalist. Her stories have been featured on MintPress News, the Anti-Media, Media Roots, and Steemit. Find her on Twitter.