Activists Reject Greek Offer to Send Flotilla Aid to Gaza

Posted July 3rd, 2011 at 8:05 pm (UTC-5)
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Organizers of a pro-Palestinian flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip have rejected a Greek government offer that would ferry humanitarian aid to Gaza using its own vessels under United Nations supervision.

Activists late Sunday said they still are looking into ways to circumvent Greece's order preventing ships docked in its ports from departing for the Hamas-run Palestinian territory.

The Greek initiative would have the humanitarian aid currently aboard flotilla ships loaded onto watercraft of the Greek government and transferred to Gaza through organized channels. The supplies would be shipped to Gaza through Israeli ports as requested by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Earlier Sunday, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou discussed the offer with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Greece said the plan would involve “constant contact with the Palestinian Authority” and that Mr. Abbas had expressed his support.

The Israeli government also agreed to Greece's offer.

Separately, American activists on the U.S.-flagged flotilla ship The Audacity of Hope announced an open-ended hunger strike aimed at pressuring Washington to persuade Greece to allow the vessel to sail to Gaza. On Saturday, Greek authorities arrested the ship's 60-year-old captain for leaving port without permission.

Israel's Haaretz newspaper quoted flotilla organizers who said all operational ships will depart for Gaza on Monday, despite the Greek government ban.

Israel, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations have urged the flotilla's international organizers to cancel plans attempting to break the Israeli sea blockade on the Palestinian territory.

A year ago, Israeli naval commandos intercepted a Gaza aid flotilla and killed nine pro-Palestinian activists in a botched raid. The incident sparked international outrage and increased regional tensions.

Organizers hope to bring up to eight boats and two cargo vessels laden with supplies to Gaza, along with about 300 people, including politicians, journalists, writers and religious figures. They say the blockade is illegal and immoral.

Two of the flotilla boats are disabled. Flotilla organizers blame Israeli sabotage, but the Israeli government vehemently denies it was involved.

Pro-Palestinian groups said Sunday that hundreds of activists from around the world intend to fly into Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport next week to protest the country's Gaza naval blockade. Israeli media reported that activists hope to disrupt flights there.