Reporting from Ashdod Marina in southern Israel about 30 minutes ago, Free Gaza spokeswoman Angela Godfrey-Goldstein says in an email sent to journalists that the SS Free Gaza and SS Liberty, two converted fishing boats sailing from Cyprus to Gaza, “are now about to turn into Gazan waters, and may God speed them safe to land”.
And, she said, despite all the reported problems, which include communications black-outs and sea-sicknesses, and in rough waves with a storm brewing, the “Estimated time of arrival according to Jeff Halper, with whom I finally managed to speak on a satellite phone whose number wasn’t published and is now used in emergency, is 5 pm – 7 pm”.
And, she added, “I hear that 20 boats left Gaza Harbour to welcome FREE GAZA and LIBERTY, but are now doing a U-turn to go back … apparently due to warning shots having indeed been fired. Palestinians in Gaza said earlier there was NO ISRAELI NAVAL PRESENCE on the horizon”…
Now, she says, she is wondering how, if the boats actually manage to arrive in Gaza, “How they then get out? — Chapter Two of this ongoing saga …. But maybe today freedom and justice will warm a few Palestinian hearts” …
According to what she’s heard, Godfrey-Goldstein says there are some 200,000 Gazans on the beach, waiting to receive the FREE GAZA expedition, and “it’s obvious there’s a demonstration there, with extreme excitement”.
Though spirits are obviously high, this is the crucial moment — when the ships are about to leave international waters to enter Gaza’s territorial waters, which are under Israeli security control.
LATEST UPDATE: After the confusion reported just below in this post, and the pulling of an apparently wrong if not fictitious (maybe even hacked???) post on the Free Gaza website, this email above is now posted on the Free Gaza website here .
Since the email quoted above arrived just a few minutes ago (was it authentic, or disinformation???), this has been posted on the Free Gaza website: Urgent: Request for International Community Intervention — Free Gaza Movement Boat Flotilla in Need of Immediate Assistance.
The website post says that the two Free Gaza expedition boats “are now sailing with damaged navigation systems. As such, they are in jeopardy of drifting off course and out of international waters. In addition they have encountering rough seas, with waves over 3 meters high … We request that all individuals and organisations make representation to the government of Israel and the Israeli navy to protect the lives of the civilians aboard the two ships, SS Liberty and SS Free Gaza which are sailing under the Greek flag”. This posting — which apparently contradicts the email message just received — can be read in full on the Free Gaza website
LATEST UPDATE: This message has now been pulled off the website — could the Free Gaza website been hacked?????
Now the Free Gaza website — cleansed of the post quoted above — is reporting the following location for the ships in the expedition: Latitude:31.7319, Longitude:34.1069 [Time:08/23/2008 12:21:18 (GMT), or 3:21 pm in the area]
As noted in yesterday’s post, Israel’s SECURITY AREA K has the following coordinates: (31° 41’•5N., 34° 17’•2E). So, the ships are very, very near SECURITY AREA K …