Gaza flotilla leaders pledge to breach Israel blockade

Organisers of a Gaza-bound flotilla said they have not abandoned their plans to breach Israel's sea blockade of the territory despite a Greek government ban on their vessels leaving the country's ports.

The campaign experienced a major setback when Greece announced its restrictions on Friday, and authorities arrested the captain of a boat carrying American activists that tried to leave Greece without permission.

However, co-ordinators of the flotilla were trying to maintain momentum with small protests in Athens in the face of increasing calls for them to scrap their campaign.

On Saturday, the Middle East Quartet of Mideast mediators - the US, UN, EU and Russia - urged governments to discourage Gaza-bound flotillas that could escalate tension in the region.

Several protesters from the American vessel briefly protested outside the US Embassy before leaving.

They had originally planned to stay there overnight. They want Washington to pressure Greece to release their American captain, John Klusmire, and allow them to depart for the Gaza Strip.

The US Embassy provided standard consular services to the American citizens in the flotilla "before and after" the interception of their vessel, spokesman Stuart Smith said.

The Obama administration had warned American activists against participating in the flotilla, saying they might be violating US law because Gaza is run by the militant Hamas group, a US-designated foreign terrorist organisation.

Greek activist Dimitris Plionis said there would be "some action" at the beginning of the week, but he did not specify what the pro-Palestinian activists were planning to do, presumably because Greek authorities might try to thwart their efforts.

"The ban is there and we have already said that we are still considering to sail," Mr Plionis said. "This story is not finished."

Without elaborating, he noted that "ships are free to go to other locations" besides Gaza.

The comment raised the possibility that organisers have debated whether their vessels could declare they are bound for another destination, and then turn toward Gaza once they are in international waters.

The flotilla has planned to carry medicine, construction equipment and other aid to the coastal strip.

More on this topic

All Irish activists back in Ireland

'Freedom Waves' activists on way home

TDs call on Tánaiste to condemn Israel

Gilmore under pressure to intervene in Gaza flotilla case

More in this Section

Democrats begin debates for right to challenge Donald Trump for the White House

Denmark’s Social Democrats win backing from partners to form new government

More than 5,000 turtles seized in luggage at Malaysia airport

North Korea and US ‘in talks to set up third Trump-Kim summit’


Lifestyle

Stereolab: The right band at the wrong time

Kaleidoscope: The festival that is Electric Picnic for families

The High Priestess of Punk on 40 years in showbusiness ahead of Irish gig

Orla O’Regan: ‘I treasure the way my life has turned out’

More From The Irish Examiner