French Flotilla Boat Sets Sail for Gaza
Activists sail from Corsica as others pledge to continue
efforts to reach Palestinian territory with humanitarian
July 5, 2011
A French boat has set sail for Gaza from Corsica in the
latest attempt by activists to deliver aid to the Palestinian
territory, according to a journalist aboard the vessel.
The Dignite al Karama, which left the western Mediterranean
island overnight is, thus far, the only boat in a flotilla
organised by pro-Palestinian activists to successfully sail
for Gaza, with most confined to ports in Greece.
The vessel's passengers include Olivier Besancenot, head of
the New Left Party in France, French politician and member of
the European Parliament Nicole Kiil- Nilsen, and other well-
known French personalities.
"We are about 20 minutes from international waters, and when
we arrive there, the organisers on the boat will decide what
their next move is," Quentin Girard, a journalist with the
French newspaper Liberation, told Al Jazeera from aboard the
Girard said that the activists on the boat want to go to
Gaza, but are waiting to decide if they will go once the boat
arrives in international waters.
"I think they will go if the international committee for the
flotilla encourages them to go," Girard said.
Meanwhile, the captain of a US ship, who was arrested by
Greek authorities, was released on Tuesday and all charges
against him dropped, Al Jazeera's Jamal Elshayyal reported
"He has not been fined for anything, and he is a free man.
This after Greek authorities arrested him or detained him
late on Friday as he tried to bring his ship out and take the
passengers to Gaza," Elshayyal said.
The Audacity of Hope, also part of the so-called 'Freedom
Flotilla', set sail on Friday from the Greek port of Perama
and was towed back to shore by the Greek coast guard.
"Many viewed that the case today would be indicative of how
likely it would be that this flotilla would actually set sail
altogether," Elshayyal said. "And it seems that there is
reason for optimism on the part of the participants, since
now their captain has been set free."
Greece's coast guard said on Saturday that the captain of The
Audacity of Hope faced charges of trying to leave port
without permission and of endangering the lives of the boat's
The US boat is one of nine vessels carrying several hundred
activists attempting to deliver aid to Gaza.
Some of the passengers on the US ship have remained on board
in solidarity with the jailed captain.
On June 24, an anonymous complaint was filed against the
ship's "seaworthiness". The Israel Law Centre (Shurat HaDin),
took responsibility for the complaint in the Israeli media.
'No matter how long it takes'
Alejandro Fierro, an activist aboard a Spanish boat,
Guernica, that is currently in port in Crete, told Al Jazeera
that activists from his boat remained fully committed to
going to Gaza.
"We have a few people on the boat now, and they will remain
on the boat, in Crete, until they can go to Gaza," Fierro
said, "Some people are going back to Spain, but we are going
to continue to keep our boat in Crete, and keep people on the
boat, until we can sail to Gaza."
Some of the members of the Spanish boat are currently
occupying the Spanish embassy in Athens, and have hung a
Palestinian flag from the balcony of the embassy.
"We will wait no matter how long it takes. We've learned
patience from the Palestinian people who have been resisting
Israeli occupation for 60 years, so we can wait. We are not
going to move until our government makes some solution for
the Greek government to let us sail away," Fierro said.
"Activists aren't taking this lying down," Al Jazeera's
Elshayyal reported. "The Spanish contingent of the flotilla
has occupied the Spanish embassy here in Athens and has been
almost taking it hostage since about 12pm local time... So
there is still very much a standoff from which no one seems
to be willing to back down."
On Monday, a Canadian boat, the Tahrir, was forced to return
to harbour in Crete after an attempt to reach international
waters was thwarted by the coast guard, according to onboard
The Tahrir sailed 15 minutes out of harbour before it was
intercepted, activists told Al Jazeera.
The coast guard ship pursued the Tahrir, using water cannons
and eventually boarding the ship.
Ehab Lotayef, spokesperson and coordinator for the Canadian
boat, told Al Jazeera from Montreal that the two kayakers and
a Canadian-Jewish activist, Sandra Rush, whose name was on
the boat papers, were being held.
According to Lotayef, everyone else on the boat remained
aboard through the night. On Tuesday, the Greek prosecutor
was on board taking statements from the activists.
The group of activists in Corfu seemed to have all but
exhausted their attempts to comply with the necessary
paperwork for getting official permission to leave port.
In a meeting on Tuesday, the Corfu group discussed staging
local demonstrations against the Greek blockade of their
flotilla, but did not disclose the nature of the planned
Most activists in the group seemed to reject the idea of
breaking out of port, while the captain of the ship said he
did not want to copy other breakouts out of fear of
jeopardising his sailing license.
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