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.

Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Morrissey pictured in 2013
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Robyn Lawley
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine