Lone yacht from flotilla heads to Gaza: activists

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 18, 2011 8:04 AM
Lone yacht from flotilla heads to Gaza: activists

GAZA (Reuters) - A French yacht carrying pro-Palestinian activists was sailing toward the Gaza Strip on Monday after other ships in a flotilla that planned to challenge Israel's blockade were grounded in Greece, organizers said.

The 17-passenger "Dignite-AlKarama" left Greek waters on Sunday and was on course to reach the Palestinian enclave by Tuesday, according to a statement by French campaigners working with the umbrella Free Gaza Movement.

"It is now the voice of the whole Freedom Flotilla, as all its (other) ships were forbidden to sail by the Greek government thereby fulfilling a clear demand by the Israeli government," the statement said.

Israel, whose forces killed nine Turkish activists while storming a Gaza-bound flotilla last year, has vowed to stop any new attempt to breach a blockade it deems necessary to stop arms from reaching the ruling Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.

Activist vessels that docked in Greece last month were refused permission by local authorities to sail for Gaza. Two were turned back by the coast guard after leaving port without authorization. Activists said two other boats were sabotaged.

Greta Berlin of the Free Gaza Movement said the Dignite-AlKarame had declared Alexandria, Egypt, as its destination "in order to get out of Greece."

"But you can change destinations in the middle of the Mediterranean, any time you want to," she told Reuters. "It's legal to do that."

Palestinians and their supporters consider the Gaza blockade illegal and say it stunts the economic development of the territory, most of whose 1.5 million residents rely on aid to survive.

(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi, editing by Tim Pearce)