Swedish ship sets sail to break Gaza blockade
By Vegard Bottreli, Reuters
August 7, 2012
Scandinavian activist groups are launching an aid ship destined for Gaza on Tuesday, hoping to challenge the Israeli blockade and draw international attention to the conflict in a move reminiscent of the 2010 “Freedom Flotilla”, organisers said.
“We have the same goal as the previous flotillas, to put an end to the blockade of Gaza by challenging the Israeli navy,” said Torstein Dahle, the leader of the Norwegian section of the activist group “Ship to Gaza”.
“This time around it will be an easy task for the Israelis to stop us because we will be so few and strictly non-violent,” Dahle told Reuters at Oslo harbour.
In May 2010, several aid ships trying to run Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip were halted by Israeli naval commandos, who killed nine pro-Palestinian Turks aboard one of the vessels.
A second convoy, planned a year later, did not sail after the organizers said they had been sabotaged.
In November 2011, the Israeli navy boarded two yachts in international waters, one Canadian and one Irish, carrying pro-Palestinian activists and medical supplies and heading for Gaza to challenge the Israeli blockade.
The SV Estelle, a 53-metre vessel backed mainly by Swedish and Norwegian groups, will sail from Oslo on Tuesday, and organizers hope several other ships will join it during its journey before it reaches waters off Gaza in October.
Israel says it blockades seaborne approaches to the Gaza Strip to prevent arms smuggling to the Palestinians.
Radical Scandinavian pro-Palestinian activists set said for Gaza; Foreign Ministry spokesman: “One ship does not a flotilla make.”
By Herb Keinon, JPost
August 09, 2012
Israel downplayed a Tuesday announcement by radical Scandinavian pro-Palestinian activists that they were setting sail for Gaza in yet another effort to break Israel’s blockade.
“One ship does not a flotilla make,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said. The ministry was following the development, Palmor said, but he gave no indication the ministry was particularly worried at this time that the ship would pick up a great deal of momentum.
We have the same goal as the previous flotillas, to put an end to the blockade of Gaza by challenging the Israeli navy,” said Torstein Dahle, leader of the Norwegian section of the “Ship to Gaza” group.
“This time around, it will be an easy task for the Israelis to stop us because we will be so few and strictly nonviolent,” Dahle said at Oslo’s harbor.
The SV Estelle, a 53- meter vessel backed mainly by Swedish and Norwegian groups, was scheduled to set sail from Oslo on Tuesday, and organizers said they hoped several other ships would join it during its journey before it reaches the waters off Gaza in October.
In May 2010, naval commandos halted several aid ships trying to run Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. On one of the ships, the Mavi Marmara backed by Turkish organization IHH, the commandos were attacked by some of the ship’s passengers.
Nine Turks were killed in the ensuing clash. The IHH was banned in Israel in 2008.
A second convoy, planned a year later, did not sail after a number of countries, including Greece and Cyprus, refused to let it set sail from their ports.
A diplomatic official said any attempts to sail for Gaza this year would likely be met with a similar lack of cooperation.
The position of Cyprus, for instance, is that it does not want to be a base of operation for the types of organizations putting together these flotillas, since they do not know who the organizations are, or who is backing them.
Reuters contributed to this report.
By Dror Feiler, Palestinian Information Centre
August 9, 2012
GAZA – Co-ordinator of Ship to Gaza campaign Dror Feiler said the aid ship, which sailed last Sunday from Sweden, is aimed at breaking the illegal blockade imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip.
Feiler told Quds Press that the organizers of this campaign want to challenge the illegal Israeli blockade on Gaza people, highlight their suffering and convey their humanitarian message to the international community.
“We started preparing for this ship about a month ago, and we set off from Sweden and reached far to the south of Norway with the determination to complete our way to Gaza,” the campaign coordinator stated.
He noted that their ship, if not intercepted by the Israeli navy, might reach Gaza in the first week of next October.
III Freedom Flotilla; The Estelle is sailing to break the siege on Gaza
Ship to Gaza,
August 9, 2012
Estelle, a beautiful sailing ship, is going to play a key role in Freedom Flotilla’s renewed attempt to break the blockade on Gaza. This summer we will be launching an entirely new project. This time, we are going to sail from UmeÃ¥ [in northern Sweden] to Gaza, stopping on the way at ports in the Baltic Sea, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. At each stop, there will be speakers, concerts and public festivals providing information about the situation in Gaza. We will be bringing a cargo of necessities that have been requested by the non-partisan, independent organizations in Gaza that we work together with.
By Shiptogazasweden’s Blog
For nearly a month more than 100 residents of the town of Umeå in northern Sweden have been working on the 90 year old schooner Estelle in top condition before the long journey towards the Gaza Strip. This Tuesday we weigh anchor and head for our first milestone: the island Gotland in the Baltic sea and the Almedalen week there.
The commitment for Ship To Gaza in the town of Umeå and the region of Västerbotten can only be described as overwhelming. People of all ages have helped us prepare the boat. We have grinded off corrosion, painted and renovated. Even seemingly impossible problems have been solved. When the worn out mizzen boom was to be replaced we were contacted by a man offering to take down a pine tree which was then planed, stained and painted with tar before finally being mounted by yet more volunteers.
In parallel with the practical work there has been children’s theater performed on the ship, lectures held at the university, a fundraising party hosted at Scharinska, along with other cultural events in Umeå in support of Ship To Gaza. Umeå has also been visited by Hanan Abu Nasser, from the Gaza Strip, who told about the situation there and the importance of initiatives like Ship To Gaza.
The departure is scheduled for twelve o’clock noon on Tuesday. We will be able to specify the departure time further during Monday. Be there well ahead of time for a tour of the ship.
Please contact us as soon as possible if there is interest in journalists joining Estelle onboard for a shorter part, or all the way of the journey to Nynäshamn or Visby.
[Follow on Twitter @ShiptoGazaSE]