Civilians from 17 nations, none of them experienced sailors, set out from Cyprus in two wooden boats and have succeeded in breaking the blockade of Gaza, enforced off the coast of Gaza by Israeli gunboats. They arrived on Saturday afternoon. People on board the boat included an 81-year old nun, the sister-in-law of Tony Blair, Lauren Booth, and Jeff Halper, coordinator and founder of ICAHD, and the only Israeli Jew on board. See a Washington Post report here
Below is a report by Angela Goldstein, ICAHD Advocacy Officer, who has been involved in the conception and organisation of this blockade-busting action.
Despite all odds, with scrambled radio, jammed phones, a seasick passenger, a seasick journalist on a media boat seeking them out stubbornly, in rough waves with a storm brewing, phone calls tripling or quadrupling up (sorry to all whom Iive cut off), I hear that 20 boats left Gaza Harbour to welcome FREE GAZA and LIBERTY, but are now doing a U-turn to go back, as indeed did the media boat, now back in harbour.
Estimated time of arrival according to Jeff Halper, with whom I finally managed to speak on a satellite phone, is 5 pm n 7 pm. Palestinians in Gaza said earlier there was NO ISRAELI NAVAL PRESENCE on the horizon, but the U-turn was apparently due to warning shots having indeed been fired.
I received a phone call from Gaza – itis obvious thereis a demonstration there, with extreme excitement. It gave one goosebumps, feeling freedom beginning to flow.
The media boat was not far from the FREE GAZA and LIBERTY, but relayed co-ordinates (they couldnit make contact with each other) show that for the FREE GAZA and LIBERTY to have met the press, the two boats would have had to turn round – inadvisable, if theyire to make land in daylight.
If only the radio had been working, if the satellite phones were unjammed; these are regrets, but the fact is that the boats are now about to turn into Gazan waters, and may God speed them safe to land.
How they then get out? This is to be chapter two of this ongoing saga. Online talkbacks wish them to stay in Gaza and join the freedom fight, where they belong! The online words are far more explicit – as is the hate mail. But maybe today freedom and justice will warm a few Palestinian hearts. The Free Gaza Movement will be in great danger of too many cups of tea. And of being swamped by the 200,000 people whom, weire told, will be on the beach to welcome them. And the Israeli Government must now be on warning that yes, indeed, the world cares. That civil society has a voice. And that voice is saying NO. Human beings have sacred rights, and people are ready to defend them, wherever they may be. Even in the prison that is Gaza.
Media Team, Free Gaza Movement