Almost one year after a flotilla of humanitarian aid ships was attacked by Israeli naval forces, killing nine activists, a coalition of aid groups from around the world say they are just about ready to launch a new aid flotilla that is twice as big as the one that was attacked last year.In response to the announcement by the international activists, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called for a meeting of his Cabinet Wednesday morning to prepare a response. The Prime Minister had previously appealed to the United Nations to prevent the flotilla from trying to enter Gaza, but the UN did not respond.
The aim of the humanitarian aid convoy is to break the Israeli siege on Gaza which began in 2007 and has resulted in the deaths of over 300 Palestinian patients who were unable to receive needed medical care in Gaza, and were prevented from leaving by Israeli forces. The UN Refugee and Works Agency has found that up to 40% of Gazans are undernourished, with Israel’s siege preventing the entry of all but the most basic foodstuffs.
Land and sea missions to get food, medicine, building supplies, school supplies and other necessities into Gaza have taken place on a number of occasions since the siege began. None of them have succeeded in getting all of the aid they carried into Gaza – most were stopped by Israeli forces, and some by Egyptian forces.
Israel has prevented the people of Gaza from rebuilding their homes after the Israeli invasion of 2008-9 left tens of thousands homeless. According to Israeli authorities, building materials are a ‘security threat’, as are anaesthesia, kidney dialysis machines and a water pumping station donated by France.
After initially planning to set sail in May, organizers of the flotilla say that they now plan to leave Europe sometime after the May 31st anniversary of the Israeli attack on the flotilla last year – probably in mid-June. It will include at least twenty ships, including the one in which nine civilians were killed by Israeli commandoes last year (the Mavi Marmara), 22 organizations and 1500 individuals.
An internal investigation of last year’s attack by the Israeli government found that the Israeli cabinet did not pursue alternatives to an armed attack on the flotilla, even though numerous other options were available. However, the investigation did not lead to any prosecutions of Israeli officials for the killing of the nine civilians.