Hamas slams Greece for barring Gaza aid ship

Published today (updated) 02/07/2011 10:01

Policemen contain French and US Gaza flotilla activists demonstrating in Athens outside the US embassy in Greece to protest against the blockage by international authorities of their boats. The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas on Friday denounced Greece after its coastguard intercepted a US vessel which tried to sail to Gaza to break Israel blockade of the coastal strip.
[AFP Jean-Philippe Ksiazek]

DAMASCUS (AFP) — The Hamas movement on Friday denounced Greece after its coastguard intercepted a US vessel which tried to sail to Gaza to break Israel’s blockade of the coastal strip.

In a statement issued by its political leadership in Damascus, the militant group described the action as “inhumane” and said Greece had played into Israeli hands.

“This is inhumane action, is contrary to international regulations and norms,” said the statement by Hamas, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.

“Barring this aid from reaching the Gaza Strip is done as a result of pressure imposed by the Zionist occupiers,” referring to Israel.

Hamas also called on the EU parliament and human rights organizations “to put pressure on the Greek government” to allow a planned flotilla of aid boats to set sail from Greece to Gaza.

The Israeli-imposed blockade of Gaza “is unjust… and a mark of disgrace on the forehead of humanity,” it said.

Earlier Friday, Greek coastguard officials intercepted the Audacity of Hope as it tried to set sail for Gaza in defiance of a Greek ban, to challenge Israel’s naval blockade of the Palestinian enclave, an activist on board said.

The boat, which is carrying 3,000 letters of support for Palestinians, left behind nine other ships which had planned to join the 2011 “Freedom Flotilla” which hopes to leave for Gaza on Sunday.

As the news spread that the US boat had been stopped, activists slammed what they called an “out-sourcing of Israeli foreign policy.”

Activists have also blamed Israel for the sabotage of two of their boats and for a campaign of harassment and dirty tricks against activists.

Irish vessel the Saoirse pulled out of the mission after it was damaged in an attack while moored in Turkey.

And technicians in Piraeus port near Athens were rushing to fix the Swedish-owned Juliano, which had also been sabotaged on the weekend.

On Friday morning, US activists had rallied outside the US embassy in Athens to protest what it said was America’s “complicity” with Israel in moving to block the flotilla in Greek ports.

Israel has repeatedly said it is determined to stop the flotilla and has urged defiant organizers not to create “new friction” in the region.

In May 2010 Israeli troops ended a similar attempt by a multi-national flotilla to reach Gaza when they stormed the lead vessel, killing nine Turkish activists and sparking a diplomatic storm.

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