After having been delayed a week from the original departure date, facing sabotage of two boats and a complaint against the US Boat by the Israel Law Center that activists say was politically-motivated, the US Boat to Gaza decided Friday to challenge the Greek government’s forced delay of the Flotilla by taking off from Athens toward Gaza. Before leaving Greek territorial waters, they were surrounded by the Greek coast guard and forced back to port.In addition, members of the Canadian boat, still docked in Athens, say that the Greek Coast Guard informed them that the Office of the President has demanded the seizure of their boat.
At the same time, the Greek cabinet allegedly made a decision to keep the Freedom Flotilla from leaving Greece. The vote comes in the midst of an unprececdented domestic economic and political crisis in Greece, and diplomatic and economic pressure from the US and Israel to stop the Flotilla from proceeding to Gaza.
Organizers of the US ship in the Gaza-bound flotilla decided Friday to challenge Greek authorities to allow their boat to sail by moving out of the port and into international waters. They were prevented from doing so, and escorted back to the Greek port.
Last Friday, complaints filed by the Israel Law Center held up the U.S. boat in an Athens ports, and Greek authorities have still not given it permission to sail. Organizers have said that they have complied with all requests to inspect their vessel and its “seaworthiness.” They claim that the boat is seaworthy and that the pressure from the Greeks is politically motivated.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday singled out the Greek prime minister in thanking world leaders assisting Israel in working to stop the flotilla. Greta Berlin, said in a statement that ‘Israel is doing its very, very best to make sure we don’t get out of port’.
Both the Greek and the Irish ships have been damaged while the US flotilla boat is been kept by Greek authorities in the port of Piraeus in what flotilla organisers claim is a part of an attempt by Israel to undermine the flotilla.
The Freedom Flotilla is a humanitarian aid mission aimed at breaking the four-year long Israeli siege on Gaza and bringing attention to the plight of the people of Gaza, 80% of whom are refugees from what is now Israel. The people of Gaza remain enclosed in the 15-mile wide Strip, with Israeli military occupation and closure of its borders, air, land and sea.