The international organization “Free Gaza” will test Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-controlled area by sailing to the Gaza port.
The group announced its plan to try to sail to Gaza and test the Israeli claim that Gaza is free, at a news conference in Athens Tuesday.
According to Dr. Paul Larudel, one of the organizers of the trip, “Israel claims that Gaza is no longer occupied, yet Israeli forces control Gaza by land, sea and air. We’ll enter Gaza from international waters at the invitation of Palestinian NGO’s but without Israeli authorization, thereby recognizing Palestinian control over its borders.”
The trip will begin on Aug. 1 from Piraeus and will stop at various Greek islands, leaving from Cyprus on Aug. 5 for Gaza. One ship, the Free Gaza, will carry 26 passengers. A second ship, carrying 18 passengers, is called Liberty in honor of the American battleship U.S.S. Liberty that was accidentally bombed by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War, leaving 34 American sailors dead and 180 wounded. Both will fly Greek flags.
According to the organizers the two ships will enter through the territorial waters of Gaza, bypassing Egyptian and Israeli waters, a route that has not been used since 1967.
The 44 passengers from 17 nations include an Israeli, Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition; an 81-year-old Catholic nun, Ann Montgomery; an 84-year-old Holocaust survivor, Hedy Epstein; and members of various Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious organizations.
Once in Gaza, if they are not stopped by the Israeli authorities, they will deliver a number of hearing aids to deaf Palestinian children.
The organization is going to Gaza at the invitation of various Palestinian political organizations, Palestinian NGOs and the Palestinian National Authority Minister of Youth and Sport Dr. Bassem Naim, and is endorsed by several pro-Palestinian organizations, as well as Nobel Peace Prize laureates Mairead Maquire and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu .