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Gaza-bound flotilla activists make sabotage claims

Israel Materials 28 June 2011 14:31 (UTC +04:00)
The organizers of an international 10-ship aid flotilla to challenge Israel's naval blockade of Gaza on Tuesday claimed that one of their ships was sabotaged just days before their scheduled departure from a Greek port.
Gaza-bound flotilla activists make sabotage claims

The organizers of an international 10-ship aid flotilla to challenge Israel's naval blockade of Gaza on Tuesday claimed that one of their ships was sabotaged just days before their scheduled departure from a Greek port, DPA reported.

Several hundred pro-Palestinian activists, from Greece, Canada, the United States and other countries, plan to board the 10 boats, that include two cargo vessels - carrying almost 3,000 tons of aid, medicines, a fully equipped ambulance and cement - for a journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Gaza.

The activists, who are scheduled to leave from various ports around Greece either Thursday or Friday, say their operation is peaceful.

Manolis Pleonis, one of the organizer's, told the German Press Agency dpa that a boat was sabotaged early Tuesday.

"We found the axel of the propeller cut from the passenger boat Juliano which is docked at the port of Pireaus," he said, adding that it will take several days to repair, although he did not believe this would delay the overall operation.

"We do not have proof who did it but we can only assume that it was the Israelis because they have been known to do such things in the past," he said.

Organizers said a US vessel is also docked in a port in Greece, the base of flotilla operations, but have refused to disclose exact locations over security concerns. A 40-member Canadian ship is also among the vessels.

Israel said Monday it was "determined" to stop the flotilla from breaking its Gaza blockade, but unlike a previous attempt a year ago hoped to do so without casualties.

The departure of several vessels was being delayed by Greek authorities, who were under pressure from Israel and other countries, flotilla organizers told a news conference in Athens Monday.

The estimated 400 passengers include at least 15 journalists and renowned US author Alice Walker. The Israeli government dropped a threat to issue deportation orders against journalists on the flotilla.

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. Both sides accused each other of starting the violence.

The flotilla organizers vowed that they were determined to attempt to break the blockade, despite Israeli offers for them to dock and unload their aid in the Israeli port of Ashdod or in Egypt's al-Arish.

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