A boat carrying women solidarity activists intended to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza has been boarded and escorted to harbor by the Israeli navy.
The “Women’s Boat to Gaza” set out from Sicily last week and was carrying 13 women activists who were attempting to break Israel’s naval blockade on the Gaza Strip. Among those on board was the Irish peace activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mairead Maguire and former US Army colonel and State Department official, Ann Wright.
According to the Israeli military, the seizure of the boat was brief and resulted in no injuries — avoiding a repeat of violence seen during a similar interception in 201, which resulted in the deaths of 10 Turks in clashes with the Israeli military.
The Women’s Boat to Gaza was sponsored by the mostly European based, Freedom Flotilla, which previously sponsored last year’s trip to the besieged Palestinian territory by former President, Moncef Marzouki.
Zaher Darwish, one of the coordinators of the flotilla, told the Associated Press that the boat had been intercepted around 60 kilometers off the coast of Gaza and was not carrying any aid. According to Darwish, the goal of the sailing had been “symbolic” and had been intended to draw attention to the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza, which he called illegal.
“People have the right to move. We have the right to move,” Darwish said. “We are aiming to the conscience of the people. And the conscience of governments. They have to act and express their non-acceptance of this situation.”
Both Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade against Gaza after Hamas were elected to power following the 2006 elections. The blockade has stifled Gaza’s already weak economy, where unemployment is over 40 percent and has prevented tens of thousands of people from traveling abroad for jobs, studies and other visits overseas, AP reported.