Another flotilla has set sail from the Gaza Strip to Cyprus in a show of protest against the Israeli regime’s crippling siege of the coastal enclave, which has been in place for more than a decade.
“The flotilla will set out at 11 a.m. tomorrow carrying sick and injured Palestinians who have been unable to travel abroad [for medical treatment] as a result of the blockade,” Bassam Manasra, a spokesman for Gaza’s National Committee for Breaking the Siege, said at a Monday press conference in Gaza City.
“We announced plans to launch another flotilla… more than a month ago and won’t back down from the decision until we meet our objectives,” Manasra said.
The first flotilla set sail from waters off Gaza on May 29, carrying Palestinian patients — mostly those injured during the Tel Aviv regime’s military crackdown on weeks-long rallies against Israel’s occupation.
That flotilla, which was composed of a main boat accompanied by smaller boats, was swiftly intercepted and seized by Israeli navy forces. The 17 Palestinian activists aboard the vessels were also taken into custody.
Separately, a “Freedom Flotilla Coalition” has dispatched a ship to Gaza, which similarly seeks to break the Israeli siege. It has traveled thousands of miles from Scandinavian ports and was reported to be near Corsica on July 8.
Gaza has been under an Israeli siege since June 2007, which has caused a sharp decline in living standards as well as unprecedented unemployment and poverty. According to the UN, the stringent conditions threaten to render the territory uninhabitable by 2020.
Egypt closely cooperates with Israel in maintaining the siege by keeping Rafah, Gaza’s only land terminal that bypasses Israel, closed most of the time. The situation has seriously affected the Palestinian patients’ chances of seeking treatment abroad.
The Palestinian National Organizing Committee of the Great Return March has also confirmed the trip.
The committee has been organizing the Return rallies on the Gaza Strip’s border since March 30. At least 135 Palestinians, including 14 children, have been killed during the protests, which uphold Palestinians’ right to return to their homes in the lands occupied by Israel.
On May 31, 2010, Israeli commandos attacked one such flotilla, which was trying to take humanitarian aid to Gaza, in international waters in the Mediterranean, killing 10 activists onboard.