Two “solidarity ships” led by an all-female crew of 24, including Nobel Prize winner Mairead Maguire, set sail earlier this month from the port of Barcelona in Spain to head towards Gaza in an attempt to break the nearly decade long Israeli blockade of the small Palestinian territory.The National Committee for Breaking the Siege and Reconstruction declared in a press conference that the ‘Amal’ and ‘Zaytouna’ ships — meaning ‘Hope’ and ‘Olives’ in Arabic, respectively — were expected to arrive in the Gaza Strip within two weeks.
“We call on the international community to provide full protection for the Freedom Flotilla boats sailing to Gaza Strip to break the siege for the fourth time,” committee spokesman Adham Abu Salima said.The flotilla is the fourth of its kind since 2010, when the first Freedom Flotilla was brutally attacked by Israel naval forces, who killed ten Turkish activists aboard the Mavi Marmara ship.
No Israelis were ever charged for the killings on the Mavi Marmara, despite a case being filed at the International Criminal Court (ICC) charging Israeli officials with war crimes.An agreement between Israel and Turkey, which reportedly included a commitment by Turkey to pass a law voiding all old lawsuits against the Israeli soldiers that participated in the raid on the aid flotilla, ended in June six years of diplomatic strife following the attack.Abu Salima expressed appreciation towards the Tunisian parliament for supporting the current Freedom Flotilla, and said he hoped that all Arab parliaments would adopt the same supportive stance towards the Amal and Zaytouna.
He added that the committee had planned a popular welcoming party in cooperation with women’s organizations, community organizations, and national labor factions in the Gaza Strip should the activists succeed in breaking the siege.The Gaza Strip has suffered under an Israeli military blockade since 2007, when Hamas was elected to rule the territory. Residents of Gaza suffer from high unemployment and poverty rates, as well as the consequences of three devastating wars with Israel since 2008, most recently in the summer of 2014.The 51-day Israeli offensive, termed “Operation Protective Edge” by Israeli authorities, resulted in the killings of at least 1,462 Palestinian civilians, a third of whom were children, according to the UN.
The UN has said that the besieged Palestinian territory could become “uninhabitable” by 2020, as its 1.8 million residents remain in dire poverty due to the nearly decade-long Israeli blockade that has crippled the economy, while continuing to experience the widespread destruction wrought by the Israeli offenses, and the slow-paced reconstruction efforts aimed at rebuilding homes for some 75,000 of Palestinians who remain displaced following the last Israeli assault.