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Activists prepare to confront Israel with second Gaza flotilla

Arab World Materials 30 May 2011 18:00 (UTC +04:00)
A year after an aid mission bound for Gaza ended in bloodshed, international activists are determined to break the Israeli blockade of the Palestinian enclave by sending another flotilla in late June, organizers announced Monday.
Activists prepare to confront Israel with second Gaza flotilla

A year after an aid mission bound for Gaza ended in bloodshed, international activists are determined to break the Israeli blockade of the Palestinian enclave by sending another flotilla in late June, organizers announced Monday.

At a press conference held aboard the Mavi Marmara - the Turkish ship upon which nine activists were killed by Israeli forces in international waters last year- organizers said Israel should allow the second flotilla to reach Gaza or risk international condemnation, DPA reported.

"We don't believe (Israel) will repeat the same big mistake against humanity. Our activists will sail peacefully. We don't believe (Israel) will attack the boats again," said Huseyin Oruc.

Oruc is a spokesperson for the Turkey-based Foundation for Human Rights and Freedom and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), the charity organization that primarily organized last year's flotilla.

The "Freedom Flotilla II-Stay Human II" is to sail the last week in June and will consist of 15 ships, including the Mavi Marmara, carrying medical supplies, construction materials and other goods, along with a total of 1,500 activists.

Organizers emphasized that the Freedom Flotilla II was an international effort backed by 22 organizations from around the world and that citizens of close to 100 countries would be taking part.

"It is a civilian initiative. We will not allow any government to take part in this issue," Oruc said.

The flotilla that set sail last May represented six NGOs, but has been criticized as having been a primarily Turkish endeavour, with some in Israel alleging the mission had implicit backing from Ankara.

Flotilla organizers held a moment of prayers and silence to commemorate the activists killed last May, including eight Turkish citizens and an American citizen of Turkish descent.

Formerly strong Turkish-Israeli relations, which had been increasingly rocky in recent years, have been at their lowest point since the flotilla incident.

Responding to an argument that Egypt's recent decision to open the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Israel has made it possible for residents of Gaza to obtain the goods they need, flotilla organizers the situation had improved but was not enough.

"Israel still prevents Palestinians from using their sea and controls and severely restricts all goods entering and exiting Gaza," said Vangelis Pissias, a Greek citizen and another coordinator of this year's flotilla.

Israel has said the blockade is necessary to prevent weapons from being smuggled into the territory.

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