International

Technical issues reduce ‘Freedom Flotilla’ to five boats

Palestinian fishermen prepare their boat ahead of the expected arrival of a flotilla of hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists trying to sail into the Gaza Strip, in Gaza city, on Friday. Photo: AP.

Palestinian fishermen prepare their boat ahead of the expected arrival of a flotilla of hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists trying to sail into the Gaza Strip, in Gaza city, on Friday. Photo: AP.  

Technical problems with its fleet mean a flotilla of protestors planning a confrontation with Israeli authorities over access to Gaza could be pared from eight to five ships, a spokeswoman said on Saturday.

At least two boats of the “Freedom Flotilla” were experiencing technical problems, said Audrey Bomse of the organisation Free Gaza.

An inspection of both ships discovered no technical lapses, leading to the suspicion of sabotage.

According to the organisers, the two boats were unlikely to complete the journey because the hydraulic systems for both ship’s steering systems have broken down “under suspicious circumstances.” They are part of a larger planned flotilla of eight vessels carrying around 700 people planning to protest Israel’s blockade of the Hamas—controlled Gaza Strip by trying to bring relief supplies directly to the salient.

Israel has said it would not allow the ships to dock and has announced plans to intercept the flotilla.

Under pressure from Israel, Cyprus has refused to allow the troubled ships to dock for repairs. Twenty-five international politicians waiting there had hoped to join the other politicians, protestors and artists aboard the ships.

The Swedish branch of Ship issued a statement on Saturday criticising that a group — including best—selling Swedish author Hanning Mankell; Mehmet Kaplan, a member of parliament for Sweden’s Green party; Swedish physician Victoria Strand; and a dozen politicians from Italy, Russia, the United States, Bulgaria and France — were prevented on Friday by police in Cyprus from joining the convoy that is on its way to Gaza.

“Restricting our freedom of movement will just contribute to further drawing the world’s attention to the protracted and total limitation of the freedom of movement for inhabitants in Gaza,” Mr. Mankell said, adding that, “the blockade (of Gaza) must be lifted.” Israel has blockaded the Gaza Strip since the radical Islamist movement Hamas took de facto control of the salient in a bloody fight in 2007.

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Printable version | Aug 3, 2020 5:37:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/Technical-issues-reduce-lsquoFreedom-Flotillarsquo-to-five-boats/article16304305.ece

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