A flotilla of eight boats carrying thousands of tonnes of construction materials, medical equipment and other aid is preparing to sail to Gaza in the next few days, setting the scene for a confrontation with Israel which has vowed to prevent the ships breaking the blockade on the Palestinian territory. Read about the progress of the flotilla at www.witnessgaza.com
The following details of an attempt by peace activists to break the blockage of Gaza by Israel with humanitarian aid are from an article in the Guardian.
Read the full article here
On board the ships are 10,000 tonnes of cargo and about 700-800 activists and politicians from more than 40 countries. The cargo includes building materials, medical supplies and paper for schools. One boat is carrying a complete dental surgery including drills. Crayons and chocolate are also on board for Gazan children. The cargo has been paid for by donations.
"We're trying to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip and tell the world that Israel has no right to starve 1.5 million Palestinians," said Greta Berlin, of the Free Gaza Movement, another organiser of the flotilla. "We are bringing in vitally needed supplies so the people of Gaza can rebuild their infrastructure."
Israel has imposed an economic blockade on Gaza since the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas seized control almost three years ago. Nearly all exports and imports are banned and only a limited supply of food and medical aid is allowed in.
John Ging, head of the main UN agency in Gaza, urged more ships carrying aid to be sent: "We believe that Israel would not stop these vessels because the sea is open, and many human rights organisations have been successful in previous similar steps, and proved that breaking the siege on Gaza is possible."
Earlier this week, a UN report said that three-quarters of the damage caused to Gaza's infrastructure during the three-week military conflict has not been repaired because of the blockade.
Mark Regev, the Israeli prime minister's spokesman, said: "It is strange that human rights activists are acting as apologists for a regime that is brutally repressing human rights. Hamas oppresses women, gays and Christians, has crushed independent media and destroyed all political opposition." He added that 15,000 tonnes of aid was allowed into Gaza every week.