A second wave of ships laden with humanitarian assistance is set to soon breach the Gaza embargo, at a time when Israel is facing mounting global protests over its blockade of the coastal strip.
The Free Palestine Movement (FPM) is organising “Freedom Flotilla 2” aid convoy, which will head for Gaza within a month, FPM head Yasir Qashlaq, was quoted as saying. Mr. Qashlaq told the Syrian daily Al Watan, that the flotilla would be part of the biggest campaign mounted so far to break the Gaza siege. Several humanitarian organisations including the FPM and the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza (ECESG) would be part of this initiative.
Meanwhile, another aid ship Rachel Corrie, an Irish vessel, has left Malta and is heading in the direction of Gaza. The ship has 15 aid workers on board, including Irish Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Corrigan-Maguire. The vessel is ferrying 1,200 tonnes of humanitarian aid, food, medicines, wheelchairs, cement, and school equipment.
Tensions are running high as Israel has already warned that it would intercept the vessel, raising fears of another bloodbath. On Monday, at least nine people died after Israeli commandos raided a convoy of six Gaza bound aid ships. In Paris, the French NGO CAPJPO-Euro-Palestine was organising a demonstration later on Thursday to draw world attention to Rachel Corrie's Gaza mission, which was rapidly turning hazardous.
Notwithstanding its tough talk, Israel continued to face a wave of serious criticism abroad. United States, Israel's premium ally, has now voiced its readiness to shift its position on Gaza. U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden has acknowledged that the time had arrived for American policy to shift gears on Gaza.
The row between Israel and Turkey escalated on Thursday with Turkish President Abdullah Gul characterising the Israeli raid as a crime against humanity. He said Israeli-Turkish relations would never be the same again, CNN-Turk reported. At a press conference, Mr. Gul said Turkey was not prepared to pardon Israel's actions.
He made these remarks as three air ambulances carrying woundedactivists arrived at an Ankara military base. In Istanbul, hundreds of supporters led by Bulent Arinc, Turkey's deputy Prime Minister, thronged the airport to welcome the activists. “They faced barbarism and oppression but returned with pride,” said Mr. Arinc.
Despite the mounting pressure, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the Gaza blockade and Monday's blood-soaked raid. “This was not the Love Boat,” he said in a televised national address.
“These weren't pacifists, these weren't peace activists, they were violent supporters of terrorism.”