A Free Gaza vessel
A Free Gaza vesselIsrael news photo: Flash 90

The Free Gaza movement welcomed on Sunday a call from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urging Israel to end its blockade on Gaza, but responded to his call on world nations to stop the Gaza aid flotillas by insisting the mission would go ahead as planned.

“We are not engaged in illegal activity in the in the Mediterranean; it is Israel’s blockade of 1.5 million Palestinians that is illegal,” the group said in a statement which was quoted by the Palestinian Authority-based Ma’an news agency.

On Friday, Ban called through his spokesperson “on all governments” in the region to use to their influence to push against the new flotilla of ships expected to try to break Israel’s continued blockade on Gaza, meant to prevent heavy arms from reaching terrorists who have rained missiles on southern Israel since the IDF left Gaza unilaterally in 2005.

Ban’s spokesman Martin Nesirky was quoted by Ma’an as having said the secretary general was “following with concern media reports of potential flotillas to Gaza.”

The lawyer for the Free Gaza Movement responded to Ban’s concerns by saying that “as head of the United Nations, [Ban] knows that the UN High Commission for Human Rights produced a report that identified the blockade of Gaza as collective punishment and a war crime. We would remind the Secretary-General that the flotilla violates no international laws or laws of the sea and so an outright ban on our sailing to Gaza is essentially a statement against the rights of the Palestinian people to control their own ports, and lives.” Israel has the legal right to intercept the ships.

Huwaida Arraf, chair of the Free Gaza Movement was quoted by Ma’an as saying, “We do not sail just to deliver humanitarian supplies to Gaza. Palestinians don’t want humanitarian aid, they want the right to trade and have open borders and come in and out of their territory without walls and gunboats and snipers shooting at them” He did not mention that the Gazans elected a terrorist group, Hamas, or the missiles raining on Israeli children, one of which killed a 16 year old boy on a schoolbus just weeks ago.

Free Gaza Movement was founded by four activists of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), which studies have shown is an organization which supports terrorism.

The movement promotes flotillas to Gaza and has done so since 2008. It was a main participant in the 2010 IHH flotilla which attempted to break Israel’s naval blockade on Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. It now plans on participating in the Freedom Flotilla 2, set to sail in June.

The comments by the heads of the Free Gaza Movement are in line with comments made on Sunday by IHH head Bülent Yıldırım, who clarified that despite the fact that Egypt had opened its border crossing with Gaza, an act which constitutes the end of the so-called siege on Gaza, as well as the beginning of the opportunity to transfer arms to the Gaza strip, his group would go ahead as planned with the new flotilla.

Several weeks ago, the IDF intercepted a Malaysian ship allegedly also carrying “aid for Palestine” as it attempted to breach Israel's blockade of Gaza. The aid is unnecessary, Israel claims, and the flotilla goals are for publicity, not humanitarian aid. Photos of overflowing stalls in markets and opulent malls in Gaza seem to bear this out.

IDF soldiers attempted to persuade the activists on the vessel, sent by the Perdana Global Peace Foundation (PGPF), to return to Egypt where the boat had been docked, but when the vessel disregarded their efforts, IDF soldiers fired warning shots to underscore the message. At that point, the vessel changed course, returning to Egypt. There were no injuries.