Activists Expecting Arrest

Activists Jewish flotilla to Gaza expect to be stopped by Israel while another aid convoy arrives in Turkey on its way to Gaza.

Tags: Gaza Region
Elad Benari , | updated: 3:19 AM

British MP George Galloway in Gaza (archive)
British MP George Galloway in Gaza (archive)
Israel news photo: Flash 90

A boat carrying Jewish activists is making its way towards the Gaza Strip and is scheduled to arrive there late Tuesday morning.

The boat, called the Irene, set sail from Cyprus on Sunday. On board are nine Jewish activists from Israel and other countries, including Yonatan Shapira, who was dismissed from army duty in 2003 after he joined 25 other pilots in declaring he would not fly any more missions against the Palestinian Authority. A few months ago, he spray-painted, "Free the Ghettos, Free Gaza and Palestine" on a wall at the Warsaw Ghetto.

The activists told the Associated Press that they expect the Israeli navy to overtake the boat as it arrives closer to Gaza.

"We know that they stopped all the other boats, so there is probably a good chance that they will try to stop this one,” said Shapira during a telephone interview from on board the boat.

The activists have said that they were not looking to confront Israeli troops.

Meanwhile, another convoy of aid vehicles carrying 40 activists from the group Viva Palestina left the town of Alexandroupolis in Greece on Monday and is also headed for Gaza. The convoy made its way to Istanbul in Turkey, where it was met by supporters of IHH, the group who was behind the flotilla to Gaza last May. From Istanbul, the convoy will go via the Middle East, in hopes to enter Gaza via the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

Viva Palestina said on its website that the convoy left London on September 12, passing through Lyons in France and Milan in Italy on its way to Greece. The organization was formed by former British MP George Galloway, who had announced in June that this convoy would “leave Britain shortly after the end of Ramadan in September and travel through Europe, down through Turkey and Syria into Jordan."

Galloway vowed that the embargo on Gaza “won't end by resolutions in the [U.N.] Security Council; it won't end by, by G-d it won't end, with ruminations in the Arab League…. We have to break it down ourselves and we will do so."

Viva Palestina has already organized three aid convoys to Gaza over the past 18 months. In one incident in December of last year, one of the convoys that was trying to take a shortcut through Egypt, was stopped by Egyptian authorities, who blocked the convoy from entering its borders at Nuweiba, saying the vehicles had to enter through the Mediterranean port city of El-Arish.

Israeli forces intercepted the IHH sponsored aid flotilla headed for Gaza last May. When the Israeli soldiers boarded one of the boats, the Mavi Marmara, in a peaceful attempt to prevent its entrance into Israel's territorial waters, they were attacked by passengers wielding knives and blunt weapons. Nine Turkish citizens were killed in the confrontation, while the ship was found not to be carrying any aid.