A “Freedom Flotilla” is planning to sail for Gaza by the end of the month.
It will be the ninth expedition to try to reach Gaza by sea. According to the Free Gaza movement, this time it will be bigger and better than ever.
This time, there will be Turkish involvement.
This raises the stakes.
The Free Gaza movement is calling it “the biggest internationally coordinated effort to directly challenge Israeli’s ongoing occupation, aggression, and violence against the Palestinian people”.
The organizers apparently believe that, even if they don’t succeed in reaching their destination in Gaza, the publicity value alone, highlighting the blockade of Gaza, sufficiently justifies this attempt.
The last attempt to reach Gaza by sea was in June 2009 — then, Free Gaza ships were intercepted by the Israeli Navy off Gaza, and forced to proceed to the southern Israeli port of Ashdod, where the cargo was impounded (some of it was later transferred by land to Israeli crossings and sent into Gaza). The activists aboard were jailed before deportation.
The Government of Bahrain, which does not have formal diplomatic relations with Israel, sent a delegation to receive its arrested activists.
Now, a Turkish relief organization, IHH (Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief, or Insani Yardim Vakfi), is making major preparations to participate in the coming “Freedom Flotilla”. The aim is to reach Gaza’s fishermens’ wharf by late May.
According to the organizers’ plans, the Freedom Flotilla will include as many as 9 boats, including several cargo ships, and perhaps five passenger ships with up to 600 high-profile international personalities, activists, and journalists aboard.
Some of the ships will reportedly be flying the Turkish flag.
This means that any Israeli attack on those ships would be considered tantamount to an attack upon Turkey.