Thursday, November 3, 2011

Flotilla organizers to Haaretz: We expect to reach Gaza in two days

Flotilla organizers to Haaretz: We expect to reach Gaza in two days


Canadian activist Ehab Lotayef says two-vessel flotilla

is 'halfway to Gaza'; says 'there will be no violence

from our side' in dealing with Israel Defense Forces.


By Natasha Mozgovaya


Ehab Lotayef, one of the Canadian organizers of the

Gaza-bound flotilla that set sail from Turkey on

Wednesday, says that the ship is "halfway to Gaza" and

expects to arrive at its destination "within the next

two days."


Speaking with Haaretz via satellite phone on board the

"Tahrir," Lotayef said that the activists had not yet

been contacted by the Israel Defense Forces, and that

they are still contemplating their strategy.


"We might speed u a bit, we might slow down a little,

but there will be no violence from our side," he said.


The activists are aware that the IDF plans to intercept

the two vessels that are heading for Gaza.


"We've heard from the press they are planning to stop

us, but we are determined to reach Gaza, and we are

going to do our best to reach it in a non-violent

confrontation way," he said.


"I don't have illusions that our mission will end all

the problems tomorrow, but we are using any tool to

call attention to the suffering of people in Gaza. We

didn't come to fight with the Israeli army, we came to

deliver a clear message: the blockade of Gaza is

illegal and inhumane. It should end." Lotayef added.


When asked about the rockets fired from the Gaza Strip

into Israel, he said, "our mission is totally separate

from the cycle of violence. Our view is that violence

against civilians is unacceptable in all cases. We

still believe the blockade needs to be lifted, and that

for many decades Israel refused to grant Palestinians

their basic rights."


Lotayef added that sailing conditions are not ideal,

and that the sea is not "totally smooth," but that

everybody on board is well, and that any hardship they

might experience is nothing in comparison to the

conditions of the "open-sky prison" of Gaza.


The Israeli Navy started tracking the two-vessel ships

flotilla to Gaza on Wednesday.


According to information obtained by security services,

the two ships left Turkey after announcing their

intentions to sale to Rhodes. There is no information

presently that indicates Turkish involvement in the flotilla.


The passengers on the two ships - a small ship named

"Al-Tahrir" and a yacht named "the Saoirse" are

believed to be activists in two pro-Palestinian

organizations from Ireland and Canada.


According to IDF estimates, judging by the speed of the

ships and the conditions at sea, the IDF estimates that

the ships will arrive in Gaza between Thursday night

and early Friday morning.


The first Gaza flotilla set sail from Turkey in May

2010. The six-vessel convoy had the intention of

breaking through a comprehensive blockade Israel had

placed on the coastal territory. The most recent

flotilla attempt in July 2011 did not reach Gaza shores.


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