Israel is bringing pressure to bear from several angles to either stop this aid flotilla — or make it officially invisible to the rest of the world:
The Foreign Press Association has accused the Israeli government of using “threats and intimidation” to stop media coverage of a 10-ship flotilla due to sail to the Gaza Strip this week.
The ships are sailing to protest against Israeli restrictions on Gaza and to commemorate last year’s flotilla, which was intercepted by the Israeli navy, who killed nine of the Turkish participants.
Israel has restricted the supply of goods and the movement of individuals in Gaza since Hamas took control in 2007.
Two of the ships, the Tahrir and the Audacity of Hope, are docked in Athens, where the harbourmaster has banned the latter from leaving port until its seaworthiness is established.
Some of the other ships, including the Irish ship Saoirse, have already set sail from European ports. The ships are expected to meet in the Mediterranean before approaching Gaza later this week. The flotilla is expected to carry up to 500 passengers.
A Dutch-Italian boat will carry three members of the European parliament and one member of the Israeli parliament. Passengers on the Audacity of Hope include the author Alice Walker and Hedy Epstein, an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor. Passengers have been undergoing training in non-violent resistance techniques and instruction in what to expect if Israeli soldiers board their ship. They have also been provided with T-shirts with the message “Unarmed Civilian”.