Previous Free Gaza ship,
August 2008 [Ma'anImages]
Bethlehem/Gaza – Ma’an – International and Palestinian human rights advocates sailed to the Gaza Strip in defiance of an Israeli naval blockade on Tuesday in the fourth such voyage since August.
The ship named “Dignity” carried one ton of medical supplies and high-protein baby formula, in addition to a delegation of 11 international academics, human rights workers and journalists, the Free Gaza movement said.
Among them are two Jewish academics from the London School of Economics and a British surgeon planning to volunteer in Gaza.
The Dignity left Cyprus on Monday night. Palestinian officials and ordinary people assembled on the Gaza shore to welcome the vessel.
Israel blocked three similar attempts to sail to Gaza in the last eight days, including aid shipments sent by Qatar and Libya, and a delegation of Palestinian lawmakers from Israel.
According to Caoimhe Butterly, a Free Gaza coordinator who spoke to Ma’an, the shop faced no interference or radio contact from the Israeli navy. But the ship’s own radar showed naval vessels passing within a few miles of the vessel, she noted.
Asked why the Free Gaza ship was allowed through while others were blocked, Butterly said it was a sign that Israel “does not see this project as a threat.”
Butterly added that the group is now planning to “up the ante” by bringing larger amounts of aid and greater numbers of human rights workers to observe the effects of the Israeli blockade.
“The problems in Gaza will not be solved with symbolic amounts of aid, but with concrete politically direct action to break the siege,” she said.
Just 11 people were onboard Tuesday’s ship as the group briught more aid than previous ships and is planning to leave Gaza transporting Palestinian students who have been denied the right to attend universities abroad.
The two academics on board were sent by the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) to highlight the impact of the blockade on the education sector.
“Higher education opportunities are extremely limited in Gaza. Many vital disciplines, including speech therapy, dentistry and physical therapy are not taught in Gaza, and there is no opportunity for doctoral study either in Gaza or in the West Bank. Study abroad is the only alternative for Palestinian students, yet this alternative is being denied them by the Israeli authorities,” BRICUP said in a statement