Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Flotilla to Gaza--sailors on Estelle detained by Israeli military

This week another ship sailed to Gaza to break the siege of Gaza which is being imposed by Israel. The ships sail to draw attention to Israel's ongoing blockade of Gaza. Israel's military controls all the borders of Gaza, deciding what goods can be shipped out and what can come into the country. They say it is for Israeli security, but the banned items include food, school supplies and building materials--the stuff people need to survive.

Estelle crew approaching Gaza
Although Israel made a big deal about leaving Gaza in 2005 and emptying the settlements, forcibly evicting those who defied the removal orders, Israel still controls all the borders--the three sides with land boundaries and the western border, which is the Mediterranean. Nothing comes into Gaza or leaves without Israel's inspection. This goes for goods and for people--even when they have travel permits or medical emergencies.

The Free Gaza movement has sailed to Gaza to break the blockade ten times. Five times they were able to enter Gaza. Then, in May, 2010, the Israeli military killed nine of the passengers on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship that was part of the flotilla. The Estelle, which attempted to break the blockade this week, was stopped in international waters off the shore from Gaza and towed into port in Israel at Ashdod. Although they were not attempting to enter Israel, this is what they will probably be charged with. They call it kidnapping, since they did not want to enter Israel.

They describe their mission:
"We sail as an expression of citizen nonviolent, direct action, confronting Israel's ongoing abuses of Palestinian human and political rights and will continue to challenge Israel's illegal siege on Gaza."

The ship carried: 2 olive trees; 41 tons of cement; wheelchairs; walkers; crutches; midwifery stethoscope; children's books; toys; 300 footballs; musical instruments; theatrical equipment; VHF radio (for a ship); 1 anchor (the last two items were for the Gaza's Ark project.) The ship was inspected at many ports. A video of the cement being loaded onto the ship is here.

The Estelle, the Finnish ship that sailed this week, carried 30 passengers, including three Israelis, and, among others:
Former Member of Parliament Manly James, Canada
Member of Parliament Hagen Aksel, Norway
Member of Parliament Britton Sven, Sweden
Member of Parliament Kodelas Dimitios, Greece
Member of Parliament Sixto Ricardo, Spain
Member of Parliament Diamantopoulos Evangelos, Greece

As of today, James Manly is still in detention, held by the Israeli military. Read more....

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