For Immediate Release
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167
Israel Threatening to Stop 'Freedom Flotilla' to Gaza
WASHINGTON - The British Guardian reports: "A flotilla of eight boats carrying thousands of tons of construction materials, medical equipment and other aid is [sailing to] Gaza ... setting the scene for a confrontation with Israel which has vowed to prevent the ships [from] breaking the blockade on the Palestinian territory." See "Gaza aid flotilla to set sail for confrontation with Israel: Israelis promise to stop eight ships carrying 10,000 tons of aid, 800 activists and politicians from more than 40 countries."
The ships from different locations are meeting in international waters in the Mediterranean and heading toward Gaza this weekend.
Those aboard the ships reportedly include over 30 parliamentarians from various countries and other notables. Among the Americans on board:
Amb. EDWARD L. PECK, JOE MEADORS, HEDY EPSTEIN, ANN WRIGHT
Ambassador Peck was chief of mission in Iraq and Mauritania and deputy director of the White House Task Force on Terrorism in the Reagan administration. Meadors is a survivor of the 1967 attack by Israel on the U.S. military ship the USS Liberty in which 34 Americans were killed. Epstein is a survivor of the Nazi Holocaust and author of Remembering Is Not Enough. Wright is a 29-year U.S. Army/Army Reserves veteran who retired as a Colonel and a former U.S. diplomat who resigned in March 2003 in opposition to the invasion of Iraq. She just wrote the piece "The Audacity of the Free Gaza Flotilla: Breaking the Israeli Siege of Gaza May Lead to an Attack at Sea, Detention Camps and Deportation."
The above and others aboard the ships are available for a limited number of interviews via:
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Israeli spokesperson Yigal Palmor claimed the flotilla "is against international law." Berlin, who is with the Free Gaza Movement, is quoted in the Guardian article: "Berlin accused Israel of 'sabre-rattling' in the hope that the flotilla plan will be abandoned. 'They have no right to control Gaza waters unless they want to admit they are occupying Gaza,' she said. 'They are the illegal entity, not us.'" Pictures of the boats are avaialble at "Flickr.
An organizer with the Free Gaza Movement, Kysia is in the Washington, D.C. area.
AMJAD SHAWA, [in Gaza]
Shawa is Coordinator of PNGO, the Palestinian NGO Network. He said today: "People in Gaza are anticipating the arrival of the flotilla. We're calling on civil society around the world to help protect it in case the Israelis interfere or attack it as they have in the past, especially since the Israelis have set up detention facilities. ... The siege has been devastating to the people in Gaza for over three years, and especially since the Israeli 'Cast Lead' bombing campaign. The Israelis have not allowed the sea port to function for decades and severely limit and constantly harass the Palestinian fishermen."
Video from the boats is available at WitnessGaza.com -- which also released the document "Israel’s Disinformation Campaign Against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla," which states: "For over four years, Israel has subjected the civilian population of Gaza to an increasingly severe blockade, resulting in a man-made humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions. Earlier this month, John Ging, the Director of Operations of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in Gaza, called upon the international community to break the siege on the Gaza Strip by sending ships loaded with humanitarian aid. ...
"Israel claims that there is no ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Every international aid organization working in Gaza has documented this crisis in stark detail. Just released earlier this week, Amnesty International’s Annual Human Rights Report stated that Israel’s siege on Gaza has 'deepened the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Mass unemployment, extreme poverty, food insecurity and food price rises caused by shortages left four out of five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid. The scope of the blockade and statements made by Israeli officials about its purpose showed that it was being imposed as a form of collective punishment of Gazans, a flagrant violation of international law.'"
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