Israeli campaign stops Gaza flotilla leaving port

Efforts by pro-Palestinian activists to challenge Israel's blockade of Gaza appeared increasingly doubtful yesterday amid reports that Greece was preventing several ships from leaving port to join a convoy bound for the Palestinian territory.

Greek authorities have delayed the departure of five or six boats, according to the Israeli news site Ynet, as Israel lobbies governments to warn their citizens against joining the flotilla.

About 350 activists on 10 ships had planned to sail for the besieged Palestinian enclave of Gaza in an effort to challenge Israel's land and sea blockade, which they say is illegal and inhumane. But those numbers could now be much smaller if the ships, some of which are carrying humanitarian supplies, are prevented from leaving Greece.

The campaign, Freedom Flotilla II, was dealt a major blow recently when IHH, the Turkish group that led last year's convoy with the ship Mavi Marmara, pulled out, apparently at the bidding of Ankara.

Israel drew international opprobrium last May when a deadly assault mounted on the Mavi Marmara in international waters resulted in the death of nine Turkish activists. In the ensuing row, Israel bowed to pressure to ease the conditions of its then three-year blockade of Gaza, aimed at weakening Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that governs the tiny coastal strip.

Problems initially arose with the remaining flotilla participants last week when Audacity of Hope, a US-owned ship, was barred from leaving Athens for a Greek island after suggestions that it was not seaworthy.

It later emerged that an Israeli legal group, Shurat HaDin, had submitted a complaint stating that the ship was not fit to sail, obliging the Greek authorities to inspect the ship before allowing it to leave.

An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor, said yesterday that the group was acting independently of the government. But now several other ships are facing delays to their departure following complaints submitted to the Greeks, according to Jane Hirschmann, an activist with the Free Gaza Movement.

"They [Israel] are trying to stop the boats through administrative hurdles," said Ms Hirschmann, an American Jew sailing on the US boat. "Nobody really knows [what's going on]. We don't have much clarity. But everybody is determined to leave for Gaza."

Meanwhile, a French boat and the Irish ship Saoirse have managed to leave port.

Israel has mounted an international diplomatic offensive to halt the convoy, which includes among its participants politicians, writers and an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor. A number of countries, including the United States, have warned their citizens not to take part.

Israel also warned foreign journalists based in the country that they would face deportation and a 10-year ban from the country if they took part in the flotilla, a threat described by the Foreign Press Association as "chilling".

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday retracted that threat, urging his government to find a special formula to deal with foreign journalists on board the convoy.

Israel has warned activists that it has a right to self-defence. The navy has been instructed to prevent the convoy from entering Gaza's territorial waters while avoiding casualties.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London