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‘Freedom Flotilla 3 not over’

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Four of the Freedom Flotilla activists aboard the Marianne ship have been released from custody, after they were arrested at Ashod port on Monday evening for attempting to break the siege on Gaza. Former Tunisian president Dr Monsef Marzuki, Israeli Knesset member Bassel Ghattas and European Parliament member Ana Miranda were released, with reports that Marzuki arrived in Paris and Miranda in Madrid on Tuesday. The remaining activists are still detained in Givon prison in Ramla, Israel.

The ‘Marianne av Göteborg’, one of four ships seeking to break through the Israeli blockade on Gaza, was apprehended by three Israeli navy vessels at 02:06AM on Monday, 100 nautical miles from the besieged coastal strip. The campaign is the third in a series of attempts to undermine the Israeli state’s blockade by delivering humanitarian aid to the war-stricken region via the Mediterranean.

Speaking to VOC News on Tuesday, South African activist Dr Clint Le Bruyns, currently in Greece, said they expect the detained activists to be interrogated by Israeli officials for the next few days.

“They will most likely be charged on entering Israel illegally even though they were not on their way to Israel. The interrogation depends on what Israeli officials know about you, what risk they claim you are and what profile you have in the public space especially if it threatens the so-called good name of Israel. They will eventually be deported,” said Dr Le Bruyns.

“So nothing happens as a group any longer but everyone stands as individuals once captured.”

Activists who part of the Freedom Flotilla 3 have now had to change their strategy to persevere with the international effort aiming to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza. Three other ships enroute to Gaza are on their way back now after Monday’s confrontation.

“They went with the strategy of breaking the siege but if it came to a situation of confrontation in international waters they would turn back. They interpret their role in the mission as that of challenging the siege and getting as far as they could [to Gaza] without confrontation. Hopefully, they will be back at their port of origin on Wednesday.”

Asked whether the game-plan had changed as a result of the Marianne’s interception, Dr Le Bruyns said nothing is predictable or controllable.

“We have to consult with one another and take different political realities into account, including the economic situation of Greece at the moment and how this will impact on the mission.”

Dr Le Bruyns, who is part of the mission on the fifth boat, remains on standby and is stationed at a small Greek island. Activists on this boat are awaiting further instructions as to how to proceed.

“The fifth boat is a very important boat to this mission and has been kept out of the media spotlight. We are on standby to confirm whether we activate our part of the mission now or in a few month’s time. That won’t be communicated but will simply be activated at the appropriate time to complete the mission. Freedom Flotilla 3 is by no means over.”

Despite Israel’s insistence that it’s interception of the Marrianne was “uneventful”, The Turkish Foundation for Human Rights, Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) says it will treat such narratives with scepticism until they receive direct confirmation from passengers. IHH international relations coordinator, Izzet Sahin on Monday said that the organisation had lost all contact with the Marianne following the incident. Their only responses came from within Israel itself, which suggested the capture had gone about with little incident.

“It is not easy to believe what Israel is saying. They said (something) similar in 2012 when they did the same to the S/V Estelle, which came from Sweden. But their behaviour to passengers was very bad, and we cannot believe what they say before we confirm it through the passengers,” he said.

Sahin said the reason behind the remaining ship’s decision to turn back was aimed at ensuring all the coalition’s vessels were not captured. These ships would likely to be used on future flotillas, until they were successful in their attempts to break the siege.

Whilst the coalition has stated the ship was apprehended in international waters, Israel is thought to consider the Gaza Sea as part of its own territories.

Reports on Tuesday suggested all activists on board were in “good health”, although one passenger claimed to have been tasered. The IDF has stated that the crew will be deported. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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