Pro-Palestinian activists occupy Spanish embassy in Athens

Pro-Palestinian activists occupy Spanish embassy in Athens

A group of 21 Spanish activists occupied their country's embassy in Athens Tuesday, demanding that an international flotilla be allowed to leave Greece for the Gaza Strip, DPA reported.

The activists are from the Spanish boat Gernika, which has been docked on the southern Mediterranean of Crete for the past few weeks, awaiting an opportunity to sail as part of a flotilla that aims to challenge the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

They insist they will continue to occupy the premises of the embassy until the Spanish government asks Greek authorities to allow them to sail to Gaza.

The Greek coast guard has intercepted many of the 10 ships which have tried to set sail for Gaza from Greece, following a ban on departures towards Gaza by the Athens government last week. The flotilla vessels are carrying medicine and more than 350 activists from 22 countries.

Activists taking part in the international flotilla say they will still try to leave Greek ports despite repeated delays that activists blame on Israeli sabotage.

On Monday, pro-Palestinian activists said two Canadians and an Australian have been detained after their boat tried to leave Greece despite the ban. It was forced to turn back by coats guard vessels.

The American captain of the flotilla boat Audacity of Hope carrying US activists was arrested in a similar incident last week and is expected to appear before a public prosecutor later in the day.

The activists have rejected Israeli claims that they are carrying dangerous materials or that they planned to use violence against Israeli soldiers trying to stop them at sea.

Several hundred pro-Palestinian activists from Greece, Canada, the United States and other countries plan to board the 10 ships - including two cargo vessels - carrying almost 3,000 tons of aid, medicine, a fully equipped ambulance and cement to Gaza.

On May 31, 2010, Israel's interception of the Freedom Flotilla I turned violent when naval commandos clashed with activists wielding knives and iron bars. Nine activists died in the incident.

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