A ship carrying 20 Palestinians set out from the Port of Gaza on Tuesday in hopes of breaking Israel’s decade-long maritime embargo of the Gaza Strip.
Passengers included university graduates, medical patients seeking treatment abroad, and Palestinians injured during recent Israeli violence near the security fence separating Gaza from Israel.
The main ship was accompanied by dozens of smaller vessels in a show of defiance against Israel’s crippling siege, which has brought the Gaza Strip to the verge of humanitarian catastrophe.
According to organizers, Tuesday's bid to break the embargo coincides with the eighth anniversary of the infamous Mavi Marmara incident (May 31, 2010), in which nine Turkish activists were killed by Israeli forces while attempting to break the siege (a tenth activist later succumbed to injuries sustained during the raid).
“Turkish solidarity activists tried to send ships to break the siege, but they came under attack by the Israelis,” Khaled al-Batsh, a member of Gaza’s National Commission for Breaking the Siege, told Anadolu Agency.
According to al-Batsh, Tuesday’s bid is also a tribute to the Turkish activists killed — in international waters — eight years ago.
The incident led to a political crisis between Ankara and Tel Aviv, which finally ended in 2013 with an Israeli apology to Turkey and compensation for the victims' families.
Al-Batsh says that the ongoing rallies near the Gaza-Israel security fence “have sent a clear message that we remain under siege by the Zionist occupation while the Arab world remains silent”.
“Israel remains fully responsible for the suffering of Gaza’s people due to its hostile policies and ongoing blockade,” he added.
Describing Tuesday’s bid as the maritime counterpart to the ongoing rallies near the security fence, al-Batsh said the initiative was also meant to remind the world of besieged Gaza’s plight.
“Our boats will set out from Gaza’s shores in a message to the international community that it’s time to lift the embargo,” he said.
Since 2007, the Gaza Strip has groaned under a crippling Israeli/Egyptian blockade that has gutted its economy and deprived its roughly two million inhabitants of many vital commodities, including food, fuel and medicine.