Reports in Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth claim that a former Israeli Air Force commander is taking part in Freedom Flotilla 2 heading for Gaza. The newspaper noted that former combat pilot Yonatan Shapira ended his service in the Israeli Air Force when he refused to bomb Palestinian residential and civilian areas following the 2002 raid against leading Hamas military figure Salah Shehada.
Mr Shapira will join the US-flagged ship The Audacity of Hope in the flotilla. Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein is among 50 American and Jewish peace activists who will be on board the same vessel. Epstein, 86, has tried to reach the Gaza Strip several times before, but has been prevented on each occasion.
"We cannot know whether we will reach the Gaza Strip, but we have one goal: to help the innocents in Gaza even if Israel sinks all the ships and kills us all," said Shapira.
The Audacity of Hope was barred from leaving the port of Athens on the grounds that it lacks the necessary licences but this has been denied by the flotilla's organizers. Such a delaying tactic results from Israeli pressure, they said, and is intended to stop the ship from reaching the Gaza Strip.
One of the organizers of the American ship's participation in the flotilla, Dror Feiler, said that if The Audacity of Hope is prevented from taking part, there is in any case a large number of other ships now on their way to Gaza.