Al-Arish Port prepares to receive Gaza aid flotilla

AL-ARISH/CAIRO: Al-Arish sea port is currently preparing to receive an aid flotilla that’s about to sail to Gaza this month should it reroute to dock in Egypt and send the aid on land.

The flotilla is on a mission to break the “illegal” Israeli blockade on the Strip.

In case the Freedom Flotilla II –Stay Human is denied access to Gaza, a regular occurrence since the blockade was enforced in 2006, Al-Arish port would be ready to receive it. Gamal Abdel Maqsoud, head of the port, said that the port is ready to receive participating ships at any time, noting that they will be greatly welcomed and they will work quickly to unload it.

A security officer at the port said that they are receiving instructions from Cairo regarding the flotilla such as facilitating all the procedures quickly by providing the activists with all possible help.

Freedom Flotilla II is organized by 14 national groups and international coalitions, and would carry approximately 1,000 “freedom riders” on vessels from Turkey, Spain, Greece, Norway, Sweden, France, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Australia, Denmark and the United States.

“This is a rainbow coalition of human rights defenders. It does not only concern Muslims, but everyone, be they Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu, secular or whatever,” the Freedom Flotilla said in a statement on June 17. “This is world citizenry united, our destination is Gaza. Our means are non-violent. Our goal is to lift the illegal siege, completely and permanently and freedom for the Palestinian people.”

Israeli’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, warned the UN against Freedom Flotilla II, in a letter sent on Wednesday in which he said that such a provocative act would lead to dangerous consequences. He called on all countries to do their best in order to prevent the new flotilla from reaching the Gaza Strip and to warn their citizens of the risks they might face.

“The provocative act which is organized under the pretext of improving the humanitarian situation in Gaza Strip just aims at serving political purposes as well as raising tension in the region,” he claimed.

“Israel will prevent the new flotilla from sailing toward the coast of Gaza Strip since participants have strong ties with extremist organizations including the Hamas movement,” Prosor added.

In May last year, Israeli forces intercepted a flotilla led by a Turkish charity, killing nine Turkish activists on board.

UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, asked all nations, including Israel avoid violence when the flotilla sails to Gaza at the end of June.

The United States on Wednesday warned Americans against going ahead with plans to join a flotilla seeking to breach Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The State Department warned “US citizens of the risks of traveling to Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, and about threats to themselves and to US interests in those locations,” according to AFP.

The Americans have named their boat “The Audacity of Hope” while the Canadians named it “Tahrir.”

After the organization of a flotilla heading to Gaza in May 2010, the Quartet, of which the EU is a member, stated that all those wishing to deliver goods to Gaza should do so through established channels, so that their cargo can be inspected and transferred via land crossings into Gaza. It also stated that there was no need for unnecessary confrontations and that all parties should act responsibly in meeting the needs of the people of Gaza.
Egypt opened its Rafah border with Gaza last month, the only one that bypasses Israel. The border crossing was only opened intermittently under the former regime, which was criticized for participating in the Israeli blockade. To this day, however, Gaza-bound commodities have to go through Israeli controlled crossings.
“The so-called ‘established channels’ for delivering aid to Gaza, referred to by global leaders seeking to stop our mission, do not allow for the needs of the people of Gaza to be met due to Israel’s many restrictions, nor do they permit freedom for Palestinians,” the Freedom Flotilla II stated.

The flotilla told the UN Human Rights Council in a June 15 statement that “Israel is threatening to use even greater violence against Freedom Flotilla II” including the use of snipers and canine units.

“Even more deplorable, world leaders, rather than demanding that Israel halt its provocative behavior towards us and refrain from once again attacking unarmed civilians, have called the Flotilla initiative a provocation and have asked countries on the Mediterranean to prevent us from sailing,” the statement read.

On the Freedom Flotilla II official website, they have posted an analysis by Ambassador Craig Murray, a former Alternate Head of the UK Delegation to the United Nations Preparatory Commission on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, of the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the right of the Gaza flotilla to sail.

Ambassador Craig Murray, a former Alternate Head of the UK Delegation to the United Nations Preparatory Commission on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, wrote on the Freedom Flotilla II website, “This right of free passage is guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas.” 

( / 23.06.2011)

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