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French Flotilla Boat Eludes Greek Blockade, but Turns Back

A French boat eludes the Greek blockade on sailing to Gaza but then turns back after passengers have second thoughts.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 7/5/2011, 1:03 PM / Last Update: 7/5/2011, 1:24 PM

IDF

A small French pleasure boat carrying eight passengers eluded the Greek blockade on sailing to Gaza Tuesday morning and prepared to make the Israeli maritime embargo its next obstacle. However, the passengers then decided to turn the boat around and head back to Greece because they do not want to be the only ones sailing to Gaza.

The IDF has said it will stop any ship trying to break the blockade that is intended to prevent the opening of the sea route for the smuggling of terrorists, weapons and explosives.

The “Dignite al Karam,” carrying eight passengers, was the first boat to elude Greek authorities, who barred sailings to Gaza because of legal violations involved in traveling to the Hamas-controlled area to aid the terrorist organization. Pro-Hamas activists have accused Greece of collusion with Israel.

Israeli officials said that the boat is not carrying any humanitarian aid.

Until Tuesday morning, authorities in Greece have stopped flotilla boats from sailing beyond its territorial waters. Greece arrested the American captain of a U.S.-flagged boat on Friday, and he is to face felony charges in court Tuesday.

Another boat tried to leave the southern Greek island of Crete Monday but was stopped and forced to turn back by the Coast Guard. Two Canadians and an Australian face charges.

Meanwhile, a group of Arabs in Israel have given up on plans to join the flotilla. Israeli Arab leader Mohammed Didan said Monday that the flotilla’s difficulties in sailing for Gaza have convinced his group of supporters to give up boarding one of the boats.

The Free Gaza Movement, which initiated the flotilla campaign two years ago, has denied reports that the Greek government offered to deliver their cargo to Gaza through Israeli land crossings.

“We have not been contacted about this, either directly or through any third party,” the group’s spokeswoman Greta Berlin stated.

“The offer, as reported, is insufficient as it shows collusion with Israel’s blockade as well as a complete disregard for Palestinian human rights, reducing the issue of Gaza and Palestine as a whole to one of humanitarian aid,” she added.

Berlin said Free Gaza would accept a proposal for a direct sea route to Gaza to carry the cargo.