Sunday

19th Jan 2020

Gaza flotilla begins mission despite EU warning

Organisers say one ship is already at sea and 10 are to sail from Greek ports on Wednesday (29 June) or Thursday, after EU countries warned the group not to go ahead.

Claude Leostic from the Paris-based Association France Palestine Solidarite (AFPS) told EUobserver that one boat left France at the weekend and is en route to a confidential meeting point in the Mediterranean Sea.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Last year, the IDF quickly posted videos on YouTube which supported its version of events (Photo: youtube.com)

The flotilla, which has two MEPs on board and which organisers say is carrying humanitarian and medical supplies, aims to reach Gaza by Sunday.

Leostic noted that ships were obstructed in leaving from Spain, Turkey and the UK. The Greek contingent was to sail on Tuesday but several vessels faced last minute problems with official paperwork, putting off the departure until Wednesday or Thursday.

"When we met with the Greek authorities it was clear they were under heavy pressure. We were even told internally that the Israeli government has warned Greece they would press European countries not to give it financial aid. It's hard to resist that kind of pressure," she said.

Greek and Israeli authorities denied the report.

"That is not true," Greek foreign ministry spokesman Gregoris Delavekouras told this website. "We do not expect any impact on our bilateral relations with Israel [if the Greek boats go in the end]. The Gaza flotilla is a very specific issue."

A Turkish diplomatic source indicated the Turkish flotilla element was blocked for the sake of bilateral relations, however. "We do not want another crisis with the Israelis at this point," the contact said.

Israeli authorities noted the flotilla has no diplomatic support from the EU, the UN or the US. All 27 EU countries in Brussels on Friday signed a statement saying: "Humanitarian assistance ... [to Gaza] should be in accordance with the relevant framework and decisions of the UN and should take care not to endanger human lives."

A spokeswoman for EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton confirmed that the line should be read as a warning not to go.

Israel is preparing for a potentially violent confrontation despite the fact its soldiers last year caused international outrage when they killed nine flotilla members.

Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) spokeswoman Avital Leibovich said: "We have developed 'soft power tactics' in order to make use of every possibility before engaging in contact with the illegal passengers. Last week, our navy held a wide training session, simulating a variety of scenarios."

With one French flotilla ship carrying national radio, TV and print journalists, Leibovich added that Israel has also made fresh plans to defend itself in the media.

"Regarding PR, although we embedded journalists last year on [our] navy ship, we intend to do it again - with a larger number of journalists. We also developed a unique system of passing footage from our ships directly to our base on land, so that we will be able to distribute it quickly to the world."

For her part, AFPS' Leostic described the project as a form of "civil disobedience" against both Israel and EU governments.

"If our governments had done what should be done [take action against Gaza's isolation] we would be sitting quietly at home," she said. "It's not that I want to go and be attacked by commandos in the middle of the Mediterranean. But we owe it to everybody. If countries refuse to abide by international law and nobody does anything, it's the duty of citizens to act. It goes beyond Palestine and Israel."

The IDF's Leibovich said it has a right to stop the boats under the maritime law, the San Remo convention. She added that three months ago a ship claiming to be carrying food to Gaza, the Victoria, had bullets, mortars and ship-to-shore missiles on board.

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS / EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT (16 June 2011) – There is a 50% chance our mission will be successful, Irish MEP Paul Murphy told EUobserver a week and a half before his departure. He is currently on the Freedom flotilla Saorise. "We're a bit delayed now because of Israeli attempts to prevent ships from leaving port", he told EUobserver yesterday (28 June) via twitter. "Confident we'll be on way by end of week."

Watch more EUobserver videos here

China spy suspect worked for EU for 30 years

The former EU ambassador suspected by German prosecutors of spying for China was Gerhard Sabathil, according to EU officials speaking on condition of anonymity.

Nuclear arms race threat after EU rebukes Iran

EU powers have triggered a process that could bring the world back to 2006, when sanctions and threats were all that stood in the way of a Middle East nuclear arms race.

Analysis

No Libya truce in Moscow: time for EU step in

While the European Union was too divided to help resolve Libya's civil war, Russia filled the gap. It managed to get the fighting parties to Moscow, but without result.

EU should be 'part of the game' on Iran, Michel says

EU Council president Charles Michel urged Iran to stick to the nuclear arms deal and said the EU should play a stronger role in the Middle East, ahead of travelling to Turkey and Egypt on Saturday.

News in Brief

  1. 'No objection in principle' on Huawei cooperation, EU says
  2. French aircraft carrier goes to Middle East amid tensions
  3. EU suggests temporary ban on facial recognition
  4. EU industry cries foul on Chinese restrictions
  5. 'Devil in detail', EU warns on US-China trade deal
  6. Trump threatened EU-tariffs over Iran, Germany confirms
  7. EU trade commissioner warns UK of 'brinkmanship'
  8. Germany strikes coal phase-out deal

Magazine

EU diplomacy 2.0

MEPs on the foreign affairs committee ought to be like second-tier EU diplomats on the Western Balkans and Russia, according to its German chairman, but foreign policy splits could bedevil its work.

Opinion

'A game of roulette' - life as a journalist now in Turkey

Turkey has more journalists behind bars than any other country in the world. The authorities seem to equate journalism with terrorism: everyone has the right to express themselves, but, in their eyes, legitimate journalism is a threat to security.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us