x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Freedom Flotilla facts

Facts about the "Freedom Flotilla" of six ships which was forcefully stopped from reaching the Gaza Strip in defiance of an Israeli blockade.

Facts about the "Freedom Flotilla" of six ships which was forcefully stopped from reaching the Gaza Strip in defiance of an Israeli blockade.

The convoy includes the "Mavi Marmara," a large Turkish-flagged passenger vessel with about 600 people on board, two cargo ships and three other boats. Two other boats are also Turkish-flagged, while another two are Greek and one more is from the United States. A seventh ship, the 1,200-tonne "Rachel Corrie," named after an American who was crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza in 2003, was en route from Ireland to join the flotilla.

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition, which is comprised of the Free Gaza Movement, the European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza, Turkey's Insani Yardim Vakfi, Ship to Gaza - Greece, Ship to Gaza - Sweden, and The International Committee to Lift the Siege on Gaza.

More than 700 people, most of them from international non-governmental organisations, activists and people of various nationalities, religions and from all walks of life. About half were Turkish and the rest from 50 countries around the world. Prominent passengers include some European MPs, and writers and journalists. Among them were the former Greek-Catholic archbishop of Jerusalem, Monsignor Hilarion Capucci, Arab Israeli Islamist leader Sheikh Raed Salah and Abbas Nasser, an Al-Jazeera correspondent who said he was calling from a hiding place aboard one of the ships when his telephone suddenly went dead. He said the captain and two people had been wounded.

According to organisers, the ships were carrying about 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid, including medical aid, food, clothing, prefabricated homes, children's playgrounds, stationery items, iron bars and cement. "There is not even a razor, knife or jackknife on board," one of the organisers said, referring to the non-threatening nature of the cargo.

To deliver the goods to the 1.5 million Palestinian population of Gaza, an estimated 80 per cent of whom depend on foreign aid. Gaza has been under a crippling Israeli blockade ever since Hamas - an Islamist movement committed to the destruction of Israel - seized power of the impoverished and overcrowded Palestinian territory in 2007. Pro-Palestinian activists have landed in Gaza in defiance of the embargo five times, with another three unsuccessful attempts since their first such voyage in August 2008. This was the first large cargo, and the amount of aid delivered to date had been largely symbolic. The high-profile mission also sought to raise international awareness to the plight of Gaza.