Swedish Ship Sails to Challenge Israeli Barrier
A Swedish ship set sail on Saturday from Italy to challenge Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip, according to local authorities.
Several participants gathered to bid the vessel farewell at the harbor in Naples. The Estelle, carrying 17 human rights activists from countries including Canada, Norway, the United States, and Sweden, is part of the Freedom Flortilla movement. The movement’s first attempt to break the blockade ended in the deaths of nine Turkish activists on May 31, 2010.
According to the group’s main spokesperson, it will take about two weeks to reach Gaza, weather permitting.
Israel states that the blockade is necessary to prevent weapons entering the strip from along the coast. The blockade, combined with constraints on the flow of goods and people through the land crossings as well, has forced harsh conditions on Gazans. Even imported building material to rebuild is frequently prohibited because the material is also considered to be useful for weapon building purposes.
All of the activists aboard the ship were required to sign a non- violence declaration. The group’s representative stated that if soldiers board The Estelle to prevent the vessel from reaching Gaza, they would protect the vessel with their bodies.
The issue for Israel is not so much security, but verification of their power to impose the blockade.