For the second time in less than a week, Greek authorities have blocked an unauthorized flotilla ship from leaving its port and attempting to sail to Gaza as part of Freedom Flotilla II, this summer's attempt to break Israel's blockade of Gaza.
The Tahrir, a Canadian vessel named after the square where the Egyptian revolution began earlier this year, sneaked out of the port of Crete Monday afternoon. It managed to sail about five kilometers, for about 15 minutes, before it was caught. The ship was reportedly carrying some 50 activists who accused Greece of enforcing the blockade imposed on Gaza.
Radical leftist Dror Feiler, a former Israeli who has been among the main organizers of this year's flotilla, told Voice of Israel government radio on Monday that organizers had “failed” in their mission to storm the Israeli maritime blockade. Feiler said that “many countries in the Mediterranean have been doing the dirty work for Israel, preventing the flotilla from sailing.” He also said that many of the activists who planned to sail will now be returning home, but added that the group was not disbanding and that they were trying to figure out ways to send ships in the coming days.
Last Friday a heavily armed Greek Coast Guard cutter stopped the U.S. flotilla ship 'Audacity of Hope' shortly after it left port, while it was still in Greek territorial waters. The cutter placed itself dead ahead of the vessel and ordered it back to port, with commandos boarding the vessel to ensure it complied. The captain of the ship was detained.
At least two other ships are unable to participate in the flotilla, having been disabled while in other ports.
A propeller was damaged last week on the Irish ship MV Saoirse (Freedom in Gaelic), according to Fintan Lane, head of the Irish Ship to Gaza organization. Lane told the Irish Times that divers found a piece missing from one of the propeller shafts while docked in a Turkish port.
Barely 24 hours earlier, A Swedish ship was damaged in the Greek port of Piraeus. Organizers claimed “hostile divers” had “destroyed the propeller house and cut the propeller shaft,” according to Al Jazeera. The ship was crewed by Norwegian, Swedish and Greek activists, Associated Press reported.
Israel has been accused by the flotilla organizers of sabotaging the vessels.