Gaza-bound flotilla stopped in Greece

July 2, 2011 5:23:55 PM PDT
The Audacity of Hope is still anchored at a port in Greece, though passengers hoped to be in Gaza by now. It's the latest attempt by activists worldwide and from the San Francisco Bay Area to break Israel's blockade and get to the people of Gaza.

The Audacity of Hope is one of ten American boats on a protest mission from Greece to Gaza. The excitement spilled over in the waters of Greece, but the celebration was short lived.

Greek coast guards and commandos stopped the boat, claiming it didn't have permission to sail. The captain was arrested and commandos aimed weapons at the activists.

"Under pressure from the U. S. government and Israeli government, the Greek government is not willing to allow any of the flotilla ships to leave the Port of Greece," said Berkeley resident Henry Norr who was on board the flotilla.

The Greek government, which formally opposes Israel's blockade of Gaza, stopped the flotilla because the mission was considered too dangerous. Activists blame Israel for the hold up.

"Israel is not involved in the stopping of the vessels in Greece," said Gideon Lustig, the Deputy Consul General of Israel for the Pacific Northwest region, told PeninsulaDailyNews.com by telephone. "They didn't have the proper documents. They should have settled things with the authorities, and they were stopped by the authorities."

Jean Tepperman is Henry Norr's wife. She says she's sure her husband is safe, and also says he's determined to get to Gaza, especially after last year's failed attempt to reach the region. Then, six ships were intercepted by Israeli soldiers.

Nine activists were killed in last year's flotilla raid and as many as 10 Israeli soldiers were injured. The flotilla was carrying medicine and supplies. Activists insist the flotilla that was attempting to leave Greece carried only letters of support.

"This year and last year, the boats were inspected by neutral parties," Tepperman said. "Israel claims it's doing it to prevent weapons from coming in but all these neutral inspections show what they're actually bringing in."

None of the passengers on board the Audacity of Hope have been arrested, but the boat is being held in a protected area. Some of the activists left the effort and returned home; others like Norr say they are staying on until the end.


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