Flotilla Vessels Sail from France
The first of the Summer 2011 anti-Israel Gaza flotilla ships have set sail from France. The two vessels left port in Corsica on Saturday, according to a Channel 2 news report.
Both headed for the coastal waters of Greece, where they are scheduled to meet up with the rest of the participants in the flotilla, dubbed "Freedom Flotilla II." Only six people were aboard one of the vessels.
The entire fleet will sail for Gaza next week, French coordinator Julien Rivoire told the AFP news agency.
The United States has warned American citizens who are determined to participate that they will face legal action from Israeli authorities. They may also face similar action from their own country as well, the State Department warned.
On Friday, the State Department said in a statement the attempt by the flotilla to break Israel's maritime blockade of Gaza is "irresponsible and provocative." It noted that well-established means of delivering humantarian assistance to the PA residents of Gaza already exist, such as through the port of Ashdod.
The State Department also noted in its release -- the third in three days -- that Gaza is controlled by Hamas, which has been designated by the U.S. as a foreign terrorist organization. As such, Americans who provide any form of support to Hamas are subject to fines and jail.
A group of 36 Americans announced last week they would participate in the flotilla aboard the "Audacity of Hope" vessel, bearing the U.S. flag, a ship whose name was reportedly inspired by the best-selling book penned by President Barack Obama. Among the group will be novelist and poet Alice Walker.
Last year activists aboard the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish flotilla vessel, attacked Israeli Navy commandos who boarded the ship to redirect it to Ashdod port after it ignored repeated requests to change course. One Israeli soldier was critically injured and nine of the terror activists -- all of whom were armed -- were killed in the clash. One of six vessels in a flotilla allegedly bearing humanitarian aid to Gaza, a subsequent search of the ship made it clear that nothing was aboard the vessel, other than passengers, weapons and terrorists.