'Freedom 2' expected to set sail in coming weeks; Crew members of 'Rachel Corrie' ship, part of the first Gaza aid convoy, still determined to break Gaza blockade, saying 'we are a peaceful mission.'
By Avi Issacharoff and Reuters, Haaretz Daily Newspaper, June 2, 2010
The European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza announced on Wednesday that they received funding for three more ships to be part of a new Gaza-bound flotilla dubbed "Freedom 2".
Dr. Arafat Madi, the head of the group, based in Brussels, said that they are planning a new Gaza flotilla comprised of many more ships and pro-Palestinian activists than the first one.
"Following the massacre done by the IDF forces in international waters, the world's calls for another flotilla are even more pressing."
The new flotilla is expected to set sail in the coming weeks, and the head of the group didn't discount the possibility of Turkey's semi-official participation in funding or organizing.
Meanwhile, the last aid ship of the first Gaza flotillais determined to finish its journey despite a naval blockade and expects to reach the point where Israeli commandos raided a flotilla later this week, a crew member said.
The MV Rachel Corrie, a converted merchant ship bought by pro-Palestinian activists and named after an American woman killed in the Gaza Strip in 2003, set off on Monday from Malta.
It is carrying 15 activists including a northern Irish Nobel Peace laureate and expects to be at the point of Monday's deadly raid on a Turkish-backed aid convoy between Friday evening and Saturday morning, crew member Derek Graham said.
The Israeli navy stormed a Turkish ferry leading a six-ship convoy on Monday, killing nine people in what authorities have said was self-defense. The killings have sparked a world outcry and condemnations of Israel.
"We had a meeting after what happened on Monday morning and we were more determined than ever to continue with our mission," Graham told Irish state broadcaster RTE on Wednesday.
He said he would inform Israeli authorities of the exact positions of the ship's passengers and urge those on board to remain peaceful.
"I will advise the passengers and crew to sit quietly with their hands shown so they cannot do like they did on Monday and claim we attacked them," he said. "We are a peaceful mission."
The Israeli government has offered to escort the vessel and deliver the civilian aid for it. It has said Egypt is prepared to do the same.
However Graham said he was concerned not all the cargo would be delivered. The ship is carrying medical equipment, school supplies and cement, a material Israel has banned from entering Gaza.
Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen, who described the vessel as Irish-owned, said it should be allowed to finish its mission.