Flotilla Expects to Reach Gaza by Friday

By Haaretz

Published November 03, 2011.
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Ehab Lotayef, one of the Canadian organizers of the Gaza-bound flotilla that set sail from Turkey on Wednesday, says that the ship is “halfway to Gaza” and expects to arrive at its destination “within the next two days.”

Speaking with Haaretz via satellite phone on board the “Tahrir,” Lotayef said that the activists had not yet been contacted by the Israel Defense Forces, and that they are still contemplating their strategy.

“We might speed u a bit, we might slow down a little, but there will be no violence from our side,” he said.

The activists are aware that the IDF plans to intercept the two vessels that are heading for Gaza.

“We’ve heard from the press they are planning to stop us, but we are determined to reach Gaza, and we are going to do our best to reach it in a non-violent confrontation way,” he said.

“I don’t have illusions that our mission will end all the problems tomorrow, but we are using any tool to call attention to the suffering of people in Gaza. We didn’t come to fight with the Israeli army, we came to deliver a clear message: the blockade of Gaza is illegal and inhumane. It should end.” Lotayef added.

When asked about the rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel, he said, “our mission is totally separate from the cycle of violence. Our view is that violence against civilians is unacceptable in all cases. We still believe the blockade needs to be lifted, and that for many decades Israel refused to grant Palestinians their basic rights.”

Lotayef added that sailing conditions are not ideal, and that the sea is not “totally smooth,” but that everybody on board is well, and that any hardship they might experience is nothing in comparison to the conditions of the “open-sky prison” of Gaza.

The Israeli Navy started tracking the two-vessel ships flotilla to Gaza on Wednesday.

According to information obtained by security services, the two ships left Turkey after announcing their intentions to sale to Rhodes. There is no information presently that indicates Turkish involvement in the flotilla.

The passengers on the two ships - a small ship named “Al-Tahrir” and a yacht named “the Saoirse” are believed to be activists in two pro-Palestinian organizations from Ireland and Canada.

According to IDF estimates, judging by the speed of the ships and the conditions at sea, the IDF estimates that the ships will arrive in Gaza between Thursday night and early Friday morning.

For more, go to Haaretz.com

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