Activists, civil society and human rights groups in Europe are preparing for a new “Freedom Flotilla” to sail to the Gaza Strip and break the Israeli siege which has been imposed for 17 years. The announcement was made by Zaher Birawi, president of the International Committee for Breaking the Siege on Gaza and a founding member of the Freedom Flotilla.
Preparations have started to get the flotilla ready to sail by summer, Birawi told Arabi21.com. “The committee is trying to bring the efforts together in order to put political and popular pressure on Western and Arab governments.” He pointed to other partners, including the Popular Conference for Palestinians Abroad, which have declared that breaking the Israeli siege is at the top of their priorities.
“There are indications that we can make an impact along with a number of solidarity groups in the West,” added Birawi.
The International Freedom Flotilla Coalition held meetings in November to discuss a plan to resume efforts to break the siege on Gaza this year.
In May 2010, the flotilla led by the Mavi Marmara was hijacked in international waters by Israeli commandos; nine activists on board were killed in the attack. A tenth died later of his wounds. Israel has apparently paid millions in compensation to the families of those killed.
An Israeli group accused the organisers of the flotilla of preparing to attack Israel and incited the government to stop the ships reaching Gaza. The vessels were diverted to a port in the occupation state and the activists on board were deported after having their personal belongings taken from them by the Israeli authorities.
Israel has imposed a crippling siege on the Gaza Strip since 2006 that has undermined even the most basic healthcare, education, social and economic provision, as well as essential infrastructure.