Tuesday, 5 July 2011

French boat turns back - future of flotilla in doubt but succeeded in highlighting unjust siege

The Guardian is reporting that the flotilla's mission to break the siege may be over following the unprecedented lengths the US, Israel and Greece have gone to to stop pro-Palestine activists' boats reaching Gaza. Some activists, including Alice Walker, according to BBC World Service, have returned home and the only boat heading to Gaza has now turned back.

The Greek government has a lot to answer for. It is a government hated by its own people and now also by humanitarians and fighters for social justice, and Palestinian liberation in particular, around the world.

But even though the flotilla has not reached the people of Gaza it has highlighted the unjust siege and illegal naval blockade in addition to the desperate and duplicitous methods Israel and its supporters will use to keep 1.5 million people trapped in an open-air prison. For the Palestinian people, as always, the struggle continues, and so too does the international campaign of solidarity.

From the Guardian
Activists seeking to break Israel's blockade of Gaza with a flotilla of aid ships appeared close to defeat on Tuesday as a self-imposed deadline expired and many of the international campaigners due to sail began to return home.

Although some vowed to continue with their quest, no new date has been set for departure of the flotilla, which was supposed to be taking medicines, food, gifts and building materials to Gaza.

An Israeli law centre claimed credit for ending the flotilla's ambitions.

Just over a year after nine people were killed when Israeli marines stormed a pro-Palestinian flotilla, authorities last week banned ships destined for Gaza from leaving Greek ports, aiming to stop the latest flotilla "for their safety".

The Greeks have intercepted several of the flotilla's 10 ships as they tried to leave port in recent days, while others were forced to withdraw from the voyage due to damage which passengers blamed on Israeli sabotage.

One small French craft did manage to evade the Greek coastguard and reach international waters on Tuesday, but those on board decided not to try for Gazan waters alone and have now turned back. Meanwhile, the American captain of The Audacity of Hope, a flotilla vessel which was forced back to shore after attempting to break free on Friday, was released from custody on Tuesday. John Klusmire had been arrested on charges of setting sail without permission and endangering passengers, prompting a hunger strike from activists on board. Other protests by flotilla campaigners in Athens – including the occupation of the Spanish embassy – are ongoing. more

Settlement expansion announcement at Gilo means no peace talk possible says Palestinian Authority

From the International Middle East Media Center

Spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, has strongly condemned the plans to expand the Jewish only settlement of Gilo in East Jerusalem. The plan to extend the settlement was announced on Monday night by the planning committee of the Israeli municipality in Jerusalem.

Nabil Abu Rudineh has stated that the announcement that Israel plans to build 900 new Jewish only settlement units in East Jerusalem shatters any chance for peace between Israel and Palestine.

First announced in 2009 the plans drew criticism abroad from the UN, EU, US and Japan.

The announcement comes on the back of an announcement to build hundreds of settlement units in Beitar Elit in Bethlehem and Shomron in Nablus.

PA advisor, Nimer Hammad, has stated that the PA would be willing to drop its plans to apply for statehood at the UN General Assembly in September given a call by the Middle East Quartet (UN, US, EU, Russia) on Israel to return to 1967 borders and end settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Thanks to IMEMC You can donate to the IMEMC here

Video: the takeover of the Canadian boat to Gaza by Greek special forces

From Press TV

Captain of US Gaza flotilla boat freed but three activists still in custody

(Reuters) - The captain of a U.S. ship arrested for trying to sail to Gaza as part of a flotilla aiming to deliver aid to Palestinians despite a Greek ban was freed on Tuesday, but three other activists were still in custody.

Just over a year after nine people were killed when Israeli marines stormed a pro-Palestinian flotilla, authorities last week banned ships destined for Gaza from leaving Greek ports to stop the latest flotilla "for their safety."

American John Klusmire, 60, captain of the "Audacity for Hope" ferrying mostly U.S. activists, was charged with breaching the Greek ban and putting lives at risk after being intercepted last week at sea by armed Greek coastguards.

"He is released, there is no charge against him. He is free to go," Adam Shapiro, one of the organizers of the Free Gaza Movement told Reuters by telephone from the port of Piraeus. "Our destination remains the freedom of the Palestinian people." more

Two killed in Israeli airstrike on central Gaza Strip, one seriously injured

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) – Two Palestinians were killed and a third was injured Tuesday as Israeli warplanes fired a missile at the central Gaza Strip, Palestinian medical officials said.

Two bodies and an injured man were evacuated from the village of Al-Musaddar in central Gaza to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital.

Medics identified the victims as Muhammad Said Abu Jazar and Kamal Abu Muammar and said the injured man was in serious condition. He was not identified. more

Greek complicity in Gaza blockade driven by economic desperation and prospect of gas pipeline

From Mondoweiss

It has been widely reported and speculated that the reason for Greece's participation in the suppression of Freedom Flotilla Two may be found in its own economic situation - that the government of Prime Minister George Papandreou, pushing a devastating IMF/EU austerity plan on the Greek people against their will, is so desperate for international financial and economic support that it is willing to serve as the enforcement arm for Israel's illegal siege on Gaza.

Yesterday, in Vancouver, Canada, a Greek consular official, Georgios Ayfantis, confirmed that this is indeed the case.

In a conversation with a delegation of activists supporting the Tahrir, the Canadian Boat to Gaza, who entered the consulate demanding a meeting about the Freedom Flotilla, Ayfantis asserted that Greece's economic interests were at stake in stopping the Flotilla, saying that an undersea natural gas pipeline and a natural gas liquidizing plant in Crete were at stake.

The offer Netanyahu made followed on Papandreou's visit to Israel in July 2010 - the first visit of a Greek Prime Minister in decades - and is sharply at odds with both the growing movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions from Israel, and Greek public opinion, which even the World Jewish Congress concedes is "clearly pro-Palestinian."

Ayfantis further asserted that the Papandreou government's enforcement of the Israeli siege was about "interests," that Greece was afraid of Israel, and that the U.S. - and the Canadian government of Stephen Harper - is backing Israel completely.

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Spansih activists occupy their embassy in Athens to protest against Greek ban on Gaza sailing

From Al Jazeera English

A group of human rights activists from an international aid flotilla bound for Palestine's Gaza Strip but banned from setting sail for by Greek authorities where ships are hoping to leave from, told the AFP news service on Tuesday that they had occupied the Spanish embassy in Athens.

Thirty mainly Spanish activists had met with their ambassador to ask Madrid to put pressure on Greece to allow them to sail and had "decided to occupy the rooms," one of the protesters, who called himself Santiago, told AFP by telephone.

The occupying group hung a Palestinian flag from the embassy's balcony.

Asked by Al Jazeera how long his crew will wait before giving up their mission for Gaza, Alejandro Fierro, a Spanish flotilla activist in Greece said,

“We will wait no matter how long it takes. We’ve learned patience from the Palestinian people who have been resisting Israeli occupation for 60 years, so we can wait. We are not going to move until our government makes some solution for the Greek government to let us sail away.” AJE

Barak goes back on agreement to transfer bodies of Palestinian fighters

JERUSALEM — Defense Minister Ehud Barak has suspended talks over the transfer of the bodies of 84 Palestinian militants from an Israeli grave site to the West Bank.

Barak said in a brief statement early Tuesday that he didn’t want the deal to jeopardize efforts to obtain the release of an Israeli soldier held in the Gaza Strip.

Militants linked to Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers captured Sgt. Gilad Schalit five years ago.

The Israeli military said earlier Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved the transfer of the bodies several months ago.

It was not clear why that approval was overturned.

None of the remains had been transfered. more

French boat escapes from Greek port - will reach Gaza in day or two

(pic: former presidential candidate Olivier Besancenot is aboard with Green Party Euro-MP Nicole Kiil-Nielsen and trade unionist Annick Coupe)

Vive la France - it appears a French boat has managed to slip from the clutches of that new outpost of Israel which used to be known as Greece AFP report below.

PARIS — A small French pleasure craft with eight protesters on board left Greek waters overnight and set off for Gaza in an attempt to break an Israeli naval blockade, organisers said Tuesday.

The "Dignite al Karama" is so far the only boat in a planned flotilla organised by pro-Palestinian activists to set sail from Greece, after the authorities there blocked other vessels from taking part in the protest.

The 19-metre (63-foot) motor cruiser is carrying, among others, the former French far-left presidential candidate Olivier Besancenot, Green Party Euro-MP Nicole Kiil-Nielsen and trade unionist Annick Coupe.

They expect to be off Gaza within an day or two, the group told AFP.

"The boat was able to take on board fuel and food. It's heading towards Gaza," said Jean-Claude Lefort, spokesman for "A French Boat for Gaza", the French wing of the international maritime demonstration. more

Canadian boat damaged, Australian arrested - Greeks ashamed of their government

From ekathimerini.com

Activists who were planning to sail from Crete to Gaza with aid for Palestinians are refusing to leave the Canadian boat that the Coast Guard intercepted on Monday.

The Tahrir was stopped a few nautical miles from Crete and was escorted back to port but the activists on board, including Canadians and Australians are refusing to disembark the vessel.

“Greece has no right to hold us here,” David Heap, one of the Canada Boat to Gaza organizers, told the Globe and Mail newspaper. “We wanted to at least show the world the Greeks are helping Israel enforce an illegal blockade of Gaza.”

Heap said that locals have expressed sympathy for the activists and have criticized Greece’s decision to block all the Gaza-bound boats leaving Greek ports. Greece has offered to transport the aid they are carrying in its own ships instead.

“It’s terribly sad,” Heap, a professor of French at the University of Western Ontario, said. “The people here [in Crete] tell us they are ashamed of their government; some of the soldiers apologize for what they have to do to us.”

Australian authorities are investigating claims that a Sydney man, Michael Coleman, was arrested during the Coast Guard’s operation to block the Tahrir. more

Palestinian prisoner Ahlam al-Tamimi on hunger strike against strip searches and isolation

RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- Palestinian prisoner Ahlam al-Tamimi said she plans on continuing her hunger strike until her demands are met, after the Hasharon prison administration placed her in isolation when she refused to succumb to a strip search.

She said in a letter that she leaked to her lawyer during a visit on 3 June and published by the Ahrar Woledna (Born Free) site that her morale is high.

Tamimi also gave her account of the events that led to her isolation on 29 June. She said she was called for a lawyer visit and an officer asked to take her clothes off for a search. But she refused to do so and declared that she no longer wanted to see the lawyer. She was then beaten by the officer and two other female prison guards. The guards then cuffed her and searched her until she was fully naked.

“When I went out to the lawyer I was carrying no more than a pen and small pad to write notes during the lawyer visit,” she said.

She added that after the guards failed to find anything, they placed her in isolation, and she immediately declared that she would go on hunger strike. Later that day, she was tried at a military tribunal in the prison and was sentenced to seven days in isolation. The judge alleged that she had papers and wanted to see them.

She suspected that the entire ordeal was staged by the prison administration. A few months ago, her cell was raided in search of a cell phone and some of papers and letters were confiscated in the meantime.

Since the strike began, Tamimi has undergone daily checkups by the prison ward as she has lost significant weight and has low blood pressure. She was informed that if she did not end the strike she would be moved to isolation in another prison facility.

She has demanded that she be allowed visits by her husband who is also imprisoned and to be allowed to call her family in Jordan after she had already received permission to do so by the courts.

Tamimi, 31, from Ramallah was served 16 life sentences in 2001.

Ex-prisoner Ghufran Zamil in a statement on Monday confirmed that Tamimi was placed in isolation with the prison’s criminal population and has entered a hunger strike after refusing to be strip searched and that her health condition has gone from bad to worse since she began fasting.

Thanks to the Palestinian Information Center

Palestinan woman and a child run over by settlers in separate incidents

(pic: Maan Images)

From the International Middle East Media Center

An Israeli settler driving near Nablus ran over a 40-year old Palestinian woman Sunday, then tried to flee the scene. Separately, an Israeli-plated vehicle ran over a 14-year old boy in Qalqilia and then drove away.

In the first incident, which took place on the main road to Huwwara, southeast of Nablus, an Israeli settler driving at high speed struck a forty-year old woman and then tried to drive away, bdut was stopped by locals who prevented him from leaving before Israeli police arrived.

The unidentified woman was taken to Rafidia hospital with moderate injuries throughout her body, and several fractures.

The incident took place as a group of Israeli settlers were invading nearby Asira and Madama villages, accompanied by Israeli soldiers, and attacking local Palestinians and burning farmland. One young man, Mohammed Ziad, was taken to the hospital with head wounds inflicted by the invading settlers.

Separately, also on Sunday, an unmarked Israeli-plated vehicle ran over a Palestinian boy, Khaled Daoud Abed Al-Karim, 14, after abducting a 40-year old man, Ali Abu Khadejah, from the city of Qalqilia. The vehicle did not stop, and drove quickly away from the area.

Thanks IMEMC