Flotilla boat to join others in attempt to break Gaza blockade


JERUSALEM (JTA) — A trawler from Italy was the first of three vessels to leave port in a bid to break Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The Marianne of Gothenburg, which departed on Friday for Greece, is part of Freedom Flotilla III, according to Ship to Gaza Sweden.

The boat, which was purchased jointly by the Ship to Gaza Sweden and Ship to Gaza Norway, is carrying solar panels and medical equipment, according to Ship to Gaza Sweden, along with five crew members and several passengers.

The Ship to Gaza organization is calling for an immediate end to the naval blockade of Gaza; opening of the Gaza Port; and secure passage for Palestinians between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Sweden officially recognized the state of Palestine last October.

Among the passengers are Israeli-born Swedish citizen Dror Feiler, a musician and spokesman of Ship to Gaza; Kajsa Ekis Ekman, a Swedish journalist, author and social critic; Robert Lovelace, a Canadian scholar and activist;  and Ana Maria Miranda Paza, a Spanish member of the European Parliament.

On Sunday, Arab-Israeli lawmaker Basel Ghattas of the Joint Arab List told the Israeli news website Ynet that he would join the flotilla in Greece.

In a letter sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, Ghattas said he would board the ship.

“There is no reason to prevent us from reaching Gaza and administering the aid that we are bringing with us,” he said in the letter, according to Ynet. “I call on you to instruct the Israeli Defense Forces to stay away from the flotilla and allow us safe passage. Taking over the ships and preventing them from reaching Gaza will only embroil Israel in another international crisis, for which you and your government will bear responsibility.”

The boat is named after Marianne Skoog, a veteran member of the Swedish Palestine Solidarity movement who died in May 2014.

The Freedom Flotilla’s first attempt to break the blockade ended in the deaths of nine Turkish activists in May 2010. Israeli Navy commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara, which claimed to be carrying humanitarian aid, after warning the ship not to sail into waters near the Gaza Strip in circumvention of Israel’s naval blockade of the coastal strip.

A second attempt was turned back in October 2012.

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