(JTA) — Activists have delayed a protest flotilla to the Gaza Strip until next week.
The flotilla, comprised of nine boats — including one from the United States — was to have set sail this week from Greece, with the aim of bringing attention to Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza.
Activists told media Friday that obstructions by the the Greek government and what the activists allege to be sabotage of two ships, from Ireland and Sweden, mean that the flotilla won’t set sail until July 5 at the earliest.
The ships were to have marked the May 31 2010 raid of a similar flotilla by Israeli commandoes. Nine Turkish activists were killed in the subsequent melee, including a Turkish American.
Israel says the flotilla is illegal and military action to keep it from arriving in Gaza is legitimate. Israel maintains the blockade to keep weapons from flowing into Gaza, which is controlled by the Hamas terrorist group, and also as leverage to secure the freedom of Gilad Shalit, a kidnapped soldier held by Hamas since 2006.
Human rights groups say the blockade keeps out basic foods and medicines, although the Obama administration says its conditions have eased considerably in the last year.
Two top Democratic U.S. lawmakers visiting Israel said Thursday that the blockade is legal and suggested that Americans on the flotilla may face prosecution upon their return to the United States.
"The people who would run an international legal blockade are subject to the legal ramifications of all countries, including the United States," Bloomberg news quoted Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) as saying. Ackerman was visiting Israel with Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.).
Ackerman and Lowey, both Jewish, are senior members of the Democratic caucus in the U.S. House of Reprersentatives, with influential positions on committees dealing with the Middle East.