A number of vessels aiming to carry pro-Palestinian activists to the besieged Gaza Strip are preparing to set sail in a bid to break a long Israeli blockade on the impoverished coastal enclave.
Members of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC) in the Italian city of Palermo say they are close to setting sail and expect to reach Gaza before the end of the month.
Representatives of the third aid flotilla to Gaza say the ships will be carrying small amounts of medical supplies and aid such as solar panels, as the main goal of the flotilla, which involves at least three boats, is to break the Israeli blockade.
“Our aim is to end the siege of Gaza. We want the Palestinians to know that we haven’t forgotten about them. There are many crises in the world, but the situation in Gaza is also really bad, and we do remember them,” activist Kalle Ohlsson said.
They say they are seeking to open Gaza’s port and allow freedom of movement and trade.
The Swedish Gaza-bound Marianne of Gothenburg is also expected to join the other ships in Palermo after it left Sweden for the Mediterranean back in early May.
The activists also voiced concern over their safety after reaching international waters, referring to a deadly attack by Israeli navy forces against the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship, part of the first aid flotilla, back in 2010, which left 10 activists dead.
“We’re very concerned about safety. We have a strict non-violence policy. We’re hoping Israel won't use violence against us,” Ohlsson added.
The second Freedom Flotilla, Stay Human, had planned to break the siege on Gaza by sailing to the strip on July 5, 2011. However, it was faced with opposition from the United States and a number of other countries and it failed to carry out its mission.
Israel imposed a complete air, ground, and naval blockade on the Gaza Strip back in 2007. The blockade has caused a serious decline in the standard of living, unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty.
Tel Aviv has also carried out a number of deadly wars against Gaza, leaving a trail of death and destruction there ever since.