Since the last week in May there have been several attempts to bring aid to the people of Gaza. Israeli commandos have stormed the ships as they approach. With several pro-Palestinian activists killed and dozens more wounded the operation in international waters, is a nightmare scenario which is certain to add damage to the already tense relations between Israel and Turkey as well as further damaging the international standing of Israel.
One bloodless takeover, stands in contrast to the deadly raids, the cargo ship MV Rachel Corrie loaded with cement and supplies for Gaza along with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maireade Maguire and 10 other passengers and a crew was commandeered and forced to head to an Israeli port. No one was harmed in this case; however the Israeli’s are holding firm on their enforcement of the blockade of Gaza.
The closure of the Gaza strip dictates that 1.5 million Palestinians are confined to a small sliver of land and only allowed basic humanitarian supplies.
The organizers of the flotillas have said they plan to dispatch more ships in coming months. This means that unless Israel lifts the blockade, these confrontations at sea are likely to become a regular occurrence.
Israel has reported that it would continue to block any attempt to reach Gaza by sea, to prevent weapons from reaching the Islamic militant group backed by Iranian support. “Israel…will not allow the establishment of an Iranian port in Gaza,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared.
The outcry over the aid ships being attacked and commandeered is a public relations nightmare for Israel. Israel claims its forces have acted in self defense against Islamic extremists. Protests and campaigns from humanitarians the world over have been issued to convince Israel to allow the people of Gaza to receive aid.
Two Israeli ministers say that they oppose an international inquiry into the deadly raid of last week. One said that there shouldn’t be an international inquiry, and that if an inquiry is required it should be handled by the Israeli Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Another said that he wouldn’t trust an inquiry or probe which included Turkey.
The call for an international inquiry began after nine Turkish citizens were killed in the takeover of the aid flotilla.
In the meantime donations are pouring in to help fund the next flotilla and fill it with supplies for the people of the Gaza strip.
Spokeswoman Audrey Bomse of the Free Gaza movement said “We will have no problem getting ships.”
All that remains is to see whether future encounters with the Israelis will be peaceful or violent and whether pressure from the rest of the world will convince Israel to lift the blockade and allow Gaza aid.