Sunday, May 30, 2010

'Countdown to sail has begun'

Humanitarian aid flotilla delayed again, but activists remain determined to arrive in Gaza by noon Monday

Ron Ben Yishai

The international "blockade-breaking" aid flotilla aimed to set sail from Cyprus to Gaza Strip has been postponed again, and will apparently arrive at Gaza's shores on Monday morning, organizers said. he small fleet of eight vessels, carrying supplies and pro-Palestinian activists, were originally scheduled to arrive in Gaza on Saturday, but has repeatedly postponed its departure.

The countdown has begun, activists told Ynet Saturday evening, adding that three freighters and two ships would set sail for Gaza on noon Sunday.

Sources told Ynet that the activists have decided not allow the Israeli Navy to board the ships, "But we will refrain from violence."

"Israel does not have the authority to board the ships, it would be a stupid move on its part," one of the activists added.

Head of the Islamic Movement Sheikh Raed Salah is also aboard one of the vessels. Commenting on the possibility that Israel will stop the flotilla, Salah said that "as long as there is an Israeli threat, our morale increases. The more Israel exploits us – the more determined we are."

Israel is monitoring the position of the vessels closely. The sail has been postponed several times after two of the ships suffered technical malfunctions – which some tried to blame on Israel.

An Israeli source dismissed the allegations at "utter nonsense meant to disguise the poor organization of the sale."

Meanwhile, Ashdod Port officials have concluded the preparations for processing the hundreds of people taking part in the sail.

Those who will abide by the restraining order issued by Israel would board a flight back to their country. Those who refuse, may find themselves detained in a Beersheba prison.

The IDF is concerned that terrorists may try to use the sail to infiltrate Gaza Strip and smuggle in arms.

News agencies contributed to this report

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