Army: Gaza-bound boats refused to turn back, re-route

Action 4 #Freedomwaves ALL NUMBER, CALL & DEMAND SAFE PASSAGE 2 Gaza

Press Release #FREEDOMWAVES | Topic FreedomWaves | Category Flotilla | Pictures

Maan News Agency | November 4, 2011

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces made contact with two ships attempting to sail to Gaza early Friday afternoon, but activists refused their call to turn back or reroute, the army said.

“The vessels are continuing on their route to an area under a maritime security blockade,” an army statement said.

Organizers of the Canadian Tahrir and the Irish Saoirse boats, who aim to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, said forces had requested the final destination of the boats via radio contact.

Crew responded “the conscience of humanity,” and upon second request “the betterment of mankind,” media liaison Laurence Davis told Ma’an.

The crews were contacted shortly after viewing two Israeli ships rapidly approaching the flotilla at 48 nautical miles off Gaza’s coast, Davis said.

The Israeli army statement said the navy “advised the vessels that they may turn back at any point, thereby not breaking the maritime security blockade, or sailing to a port in Egypt or the port of Ashdod.”

“The activists refused to cooperate,” it said.

The boats are carrying 27 people from nine countries.

They set sail to Gaza from Fethiye, Turkey, in a secret launch due to accusations in July that Israel tried to sabotage a previous effort, the activists said in a statement Wednesday.

Supporters in Gaza boarded boats at Gaza’s fishing port to show support for the flotilla on Friday morning, Rana Baker, a 20-year-old student told Ma’an.

After a morning press conference, supporters will return to welcome the boats expected around 7 p.m., she said.

In rallies in Ramallah and Gaza City in support of the flotilla on Thursday, protesters delivered a statement to UN officials calling for international protection of the boats and recognition that policies, not aid, were behind Gaza’s situation.

“Stop treating Gaza (and Palestine as a whole) as a charity case!” the statement said.

“In our schools, universities and through our organizations, we are taught about human rights and international law, and yet it seems like Palestinians fall into a class of people upon whom these rights don’t apply.”

Activists tried to send another flotilla to Gaza in June, but all nine vessels were stopped.

They were intercepted or stopped from leaving port, suffered suspicious damage before sailing, or pulled out amid speculation that their organizers had succumbed to political pressure.

Source and more at Maan News Agency

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