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Gaza flotilla facing challenges

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Despite facing a number of logistical challenges in their attempts to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza, the Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC) remains determined to set sail with aid towards the embattled strip. The FFC have on numerous occasions unsuccessfully tried to break through the siege on Gaza, most notably in May 2010 when their flotilla was raided by Israeli naval commandos, despite being situated in international waters. Nine activists were killed during the attack on the Mavi Marmara ship, leading to a change in tactic, with focus shifting to breaking the siege from within Gaza.

The Gaza’s Ark initiative was subsequently launched, with the aim of sailing out from a port within the strip. However, the ship was bombed in late April this year, a few months before the breakout of a deadly conflict in the region.

According to Ismail Moola from the Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA), one of the South African organizations collaborating with the FFC, they were facing something of a “logistical nightmare” in their preparations, with a number of issues yet to be sorted out. He said they were still attempting to finalize the acquisition of boats, which would also need to receive necessary certification to have them registered as sea-worthy. Furthermore, they were still actively seeking a port from which they could set sail. As a result, they were unable to finalize a date as to when they would undertake the trip.

“This is all still in a very planning kind of stage. I never knew it would be so challenging in terms of logistics. But the members of the coalition are very determined in terms of breaking the siege via the flotillas,” he insisted.

Fronted by Turkish based humanitarian group the IHH, the new flotilla initially received the backing of the Turkish government. However, due to a rising threat being posed by the Islamic State (IS) on the Turkish border, it is believed that the government has shifted its focus and funding towards dealing with the IS issue. The Qatari government has also recently given its backing to the cause, vowing to assist with the funding of the flotilla.

With logistics yet to be finalized, Moola said it was too early to decide what type of aid and resources they would attempt to take into Gaza. That decision would only be taken once everything was in place, and would be largely dependent on the size of the boats they acquired.

“In terms of resources and having the tenacity to carry goods, we don’t have any shortfalls. People are very generous, but that call has not gone out as yet,” he said.

One of the major concerns surrounding any attempts to set sail with another flotilla is the possibility that they may face some form of resistance. Moola noted that on previous attempts, they had been outright denied clearance from port authorities, which he described as proof that Israel had “successfully moved the blockade past the international borders of Gaza”.

“These are challenges we may even face now. We are trying to use different ports, and find countries that will be more sympathetic to our cause. This is all part of the struggle, and as activists we take every struggle with gusto,” he said.

Despite no call for funds or aid having been issued, Moola said South Africans could still play their part by trying to conscientise those around them about the plight of the Palestinians, and the effects of the blockade itself. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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