International activists say the second Freedom Flotilla will set sail for Gaza in late June, challenging Israel’s deadly blockade of the Palestinian enclave.
In a news conference held in Istanbul on the deck of the Mavi Marmara, the lead ship in the first flotilla, a coalition of 22 activist groups said on Monday that 15 ships with some 1,500 activists from about 100 countries onboard will leave for Gaza from various Mediterranean ports around June 20.
"While we wholeheartedly welcome the decision of the Egyptian government to regularly operate the Rafah crossing… Israel’s unlawful blockade remains in effect," Vangelis Pisias, the Greek coordinator of the initiative, told reporters.
"Israel still prevents Palestinians from using their sea, and controls and severely restricts all goods entering and exiting Gaza. As such, we must continue to challenge this blockade," he added.
The vessels will carry humanitarian aid, medical equipment, school supplies and construction materials, including up to 700 tons of cement, said Hussein Oruc, a senior member of the Turkish Islamist charity the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), adding that the ships would meet in international waters south of Cyprus before heading to Gaza.
The activists made the remarks during a gathering on board the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara to mark the first anniversary of the deadly ending to the ship’s first mission to break Gaza’s blockade.
At least nine Turkish activists were killed and many others wounded after Israeli commandos attacked the aid flotilla in international waters on May 31 last year.
Hundreds of Palestinians also gathered at the port in Gaza city on Monday to commemorate the anniversary of the attack on the Freedom Flotilla.
The activists have also called on government to ensure that the deadly incident would not happen again.
IHH has said it expects the convoy to be at least twice as big as the previous one.
Israeli military officials, however, have confirmed that preparations are under way to stop any new flotilla.