36 Americans to join June Gaza flotilla 21Jun11 June 23, 2011

The Palestinian Information Centre -  21 June 2011

36 U.S. rights activists announced they will set sail to the Gaza Strip on board the sequel of an aid flotilla that was lethally attacked by Israeli naval forces in May 2010.

They said at a Monday press conference in New York that they would take part on the Audacity of Hope ship, one of the fifteen slated to join the international aid flotilla. The ship was named after U.S. President Barack Obama’s best-selling book.

The activists said they understand the risks involved as Israel has issued repeated official threats that it would use military force to thwart the flotilla.

A friend close to Obama helped initiate the ship in July of last year. At the time, he announced it would carry $370,000 worth of humanitarian aid to the besieged Gaza Strip.

In May 2010, Israeli commandos seized the first “Freedom Flotilla” as it neared the Gaza Strip in defiance of the inhumane siege affecting 1.5 million Gazans, and they killed nine activists and injured many more on the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship.

Israel’s once strong diplomatic ties with Turkey had spiraled downward since the incident.

The sequel Gaza flotilla is scheduled to set sail this week despite Israel’s unwavering threats of violence.

Members of the European Parliament, other legislators from Europe, and hundreds of peace activists, politicians, legal experts, and media from some 40 countries worldwide are set to join the flotilla.

In a statement released by the European campaign to end the siege on Gaza, activists coordinating the ships have revealed that they have taken an oath among themselves to stand firm against a likely Israeli attack, and they said that this time around Israeli forces would have a “difficult task” trying to contain the ships.

“[The activists] will not use violence at all, but they will work so that taking over the ships would not be an easy matter,” the ECESG said quoting the coordinator of the ship from Ireland.

“If they try to seize the ships, we will disrupt their advances without violence, and we will not make the takeover easy,” the source said. “We will not reach out our hands to them, and we will not use physical measures against them, but we will secure the ships and make it difficult to control them,” he said, without going into details.

The ECESG confirmed that the flotilla would set sail at its scheduled day of departure without delays, as had been spread by media sources.

Meanwhile, high-level Israeli political sources say Netanyahu’s government has gained more and more interest in getting past the diplomatic crisis with Turkey that ensued the 2010 flotilla attack and wants to repair the once strong ties.

But Israel insists on refusing to meet the conditions Turkey set on restoring ties with it, demands that include an official apology for the bloodshed that took place during the military seizure of the ships on international waters. Israeli Radio said the country has also refused to pay compensation to the families of those killed, as was also conditioned.

The Israeli foreign ministry has confirmed the accuracy of reports by Haaretz that secret contacts have been made between Turkey and Israel in an effort to improve broken relations and ease tensions.

Turkey has repeatedly confirmed that it would stick to its conditions before ties could be repaired and has rejected offers Israel has made to diplomatically bypass those conditions.

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