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Palestinians Have a Right to Their Own Coastal Waters
GAZA CITY - August 27 - It was standing-room-only in Gaza City studios today as the Free Gaza Movement held a press conference to announce the departure of the SS Free Gaza and SS Liberty, and to reaffirm that 12-14 Palestinians who have previously been denied exit visas by Israel will be traveling to Cyprus on the two boats. Some of those leaving are students, with valid visas or dual citizenship, who have been accepted to universities abroad. Additionally, one Palestinian professor will finally be able to go back to teaching in Europe, and one young, Palestinian woman will finally be reunited with her husband.
Since the organizers of the Free Gaza Movement will not be entering Israeli territorial waters, and since they will request inspection from both the Gaza Port Authority before they depart as well as from Cypriot authorities when they arrive in Cyprus, they expect no interference on the part of the Israeli authorities when they leave Gaza. By Israel's own admission, it has no authority to inspect the boats or the passengers when they leave Gaza.
With the collapse of the Israeli blockade, the Free Gaza Movement will quickly return to Gaza with another delegation, and invites the United Nations, Arab League and international community to organize similar human rights and humanitarian efforts.
The SS Free Gaza and SS Liberty arrived in Gaza early Saturday evening despite threats that the Israeli government would use force to prevent the nonviolent human rights workers from reaching Gaza. Since arriving, both boats have accompanied Palestinian fishermen out to sea in order to prevent Israeli warships from firing on the Palestinians as they fish, as has happened regularly in the past. Several of the Free Gaza international human rights workers will remain in Gaza after their boats leave in order to do human rights monitoring.
Dr. Vaggelis Pissias, one of the organizers of the Free Gaza Movement, stated that: "We do not accept that Israel can stop these boats. Palestinians have the same rights as all other peoples. Why is it that the only people in the Mediterranean without access to their own waters are the Palestinians?"