The Freedom Flotilla Coalition vessel Handala has concluded the first stage of the new mission to break the Israeli-led siege of the Gaza Strip. The vessel has returned to the Norwegian capital, Oslo, the International Committee to Break the Siege on Gaza said on Wednesday.
According to the committee, the Handala has visited 12 ports in a number of European countries over the past two months carrying the Palestinian flag and raising awareness of the mission. “The passage of the ship through European ports was accompanied by media campaigns and political pressure to end the crimes of the blockade,” the committee explained.
The head of the committee is Zaher Birawi, a founding member of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition. “The coalition will evaluate the activity and start preparing for the next stage, which is expected to end up in Gaza,” he said, stressing that the first Handala stage was very important to build international solidarity with Palestine and to direct the attention of the European community and the world to Gaza, which has been under Israeli siege for more than 16 years. “This is a violation of the basic rights of Palestinians, especially their right to move to and from their homeland freely.”
The campaign to break the blockade imposed on Gaza, was launched with the Handala in April in the Norwegian city of Bergen. It is a response to calls from Gaza NGOs, which call for international pressure to break the siege.
The Freedom Flotilla Coalition is a popular solidarity movement, consisting of a number of solidarity organisations from countries around the world. It focuses its efforts on breaking the illegal Israeli blockade imposed on Gaza, and exposing Israel’s crimes against the people of occupied Palestine.
The coalition has organised a number of campaigns to break the blockade by sea. The most notable of these was led by the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara which, along with five other ships in the convoy, was attacked and hijacked in international waters by Israeli commandos in 2010. Nine Turkish activists were killed on board the vessel, and a tenth died of his wounds later.