Two boatloads of several dozen activists are to leave Cyprus next week bound for Gaza in a bid to break an Israeli blockade of the poverty-stricken Palestinian territory.
"We want to bring it to the world’s attention that Gaza is virtually an outdoor concentration camp," Greta Berlin, a spokeswoman for the U.S.-based Free Gaza Movement, told AFP.
She said the group hopes that the boats, due to sail in early August, will draw attention to the plight of 1.5 million Palestinians suffering chronic shortages of many essentials from fuel to food since an Israeli crackdown.
"It’s a small flotilla for justice," she said. "We expect Israel to honor its commitment that Gaza is no longer occupied. We are going to challenge the siege of Gaza."
She said the group was determined to enter Gaza by sea to raise international awareness about its plight.
Tony Blair’s Sister-in-law
Although most of the activists are American and British, three Israelis are joining the expedition — one of them an 83-year-old Holocaust survivor.
Also on board will be Lauren Booth, sister-in-law of former British prime minister Tony Blair who is now the international Middle East peace Quartet’s envoy.
Exact details of the venture are being kept under wraps, and the Israeli authorities are being left out the loop.
However the organizers have told the Cyprus authorities the boats are scheduled to leave the southern port of Larnaca between August 5 and 7.
The two boats will sail under Greek or Norwegian flags, and the activists include teachers, medics, lawyers and musicians.
Munir Deeb, a U.S. citizen of Palestinian origin, gave his reasons for signing up.
"It’s just not very sufficient to sit and complain about the situation that Israel is putting on 1.4 million people. We must try and help by bringing world attention to it."
"We are not enemies of Israel, we are enemies of hunger and inhumanity," Deeb told AFP.
Israel pulled its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005 but has tightened security restrictions on the territory since Hamas seized control last year from forces loyal to secular Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.
It has since isolated the strip and limited the movement of goods and people into and out of Gaza to pressure Hamas to halt rocket attacks, causing many to label this tactic as "collective punishment".
(AFP via Alarabiya)