[ Ed. note – A group of women are presently sailing to Gaza in a two-ship flotilla. The two ships are the Zaytouna-Oliva and the Amal II (the original Amal-Hope ship experienced mechanical problems and was forced to return to Barcelona), the latter having joined the Zaytouna at Messina, on the island of Sicily. Below is an article from the Palestine Information Center, followed by some “ship’s log” type articles posted at the Women’s Boat to Gaza website. The year 2016 marks the 10th year that Gaza has been under Israeli blockade.]
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– The Israeli occupation navy has received instructions to intercept women’s boat to Gaza and arrest onboard activists, Israeli daily Maariv reported Sunday.
The Israeli naval forces have received orders to intercept al-Zaytouna ship and arrest activists as soon as they reach Gaza shores.
The boat is reportedly to be towed to the Ashdod Harbor wile female activists will be deported to their mother countries after they sign pledges to never return.
Zaytouna ship is expected to reach Gaza shores in the next three days following a stopover in the Greek Island of Crete to fix a sudden breakdown.
Amal and Zaytouna, a flotilla of two boats with all-women crews and passengers, set sail from Barcelona en route to besieged Gaza in another maritime attempt to break Israel’s illegitimate blockade on the Palestinian coastal enclave.
There are 11 women in each boat, including Malin Bjork, the European Parliament member, Mairead Maguire, the Nobel peace laureate from Northern Ireland, Fouzia Hassan, a doctor from Malaysia, and retired US army colonel Ann Wright.
The Gaza Strip is a place where around two million Palestinians have been locked up for nearly a decade in what many describe as the “world’s largest open air prison.”
Zaytouna-Oliva Departs for Gaza…
…Amal-Hope II to follow soon.
Messina, Italy, September 27, 2016
This morning at 9:50 am, women representing 13 countries spanning five continents began their journey on Zaytouna-Oliva to the shores of Gaza, which has been under blockade since 2007. On board are a Nobel Peace Laureate, three parliamentarians, a decorated US diplomat, journalists, an Olympic athlete, and a physician. A list of the women with their background can be found here.
When asked why they are going, the women gave a variety of responses. Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate from Ireland, notes that “they say that ‘silence is golden’, but regarding the plight of Palestinians in Gaza the silence of the world, especially concerning their little children, shows a lack of moral and ethical leadership from the international community. Why has it lasted so long?”
For two of the women, their countries’ own historical struggles for human rights played an important role in their decision to join the Women’s Boat to Gaza. Leigh-Ann Naidoo, an Olympic volleyball player from South Africa, feels that “South Africans understand the importance of international solidarity in fighting regimes that practice segregation.” Marama Davidson, a Maori Member of Parliament from New Zealand, carries with her a strong personal connection to Palestinian women in Gaza. “As an indigenous woman myself, I want to stand alongside the women of Gaza and to draw attention to the ongoing humanitarian crisis there.”
The Amal-Hope II has been making final preparations to sail and is scheduled to depart from Messina soon. Both boats are expected to arrive in Gaza in early October.
Yudit Ilany, an Israeli participant who has sailed with the Zaytouna-Oliva since Barcelona, said “The blockade of Gaza is a crime against humanity being committed in my name, and it is my duty to protest it in any way possible.”
Update from Zaytouna-Oliva, Day 2
We are in contact with Zaytouna-Oliva and all on board are OK. She is still sailing in the direction of Gaza. Difficult weather conditions last night caused damage to the rigging. We are considering options for repair, but the safety and well-being of all those on board are our priorities.
Our course remains the conscience of humanity.
Update from Zaytouna-Oliva, Day 3 and 4: Morale is Good
The following is a compilation from the Captain, crew and participants on the boat.
Wednesday, September 28
We had heavy showers and several women are seasick. There were not many takers of the cous cous salad we had for lunch. But our discomfort at sea pales in comparison to the people of Palestine.
Thursday, September 29
Today has been easier and we are enjoying calm conditions. We are sitting together enjoying the noon sunshine. It is nice to see everyone smiling and finding their sealegs. Women are singing “I am sailing to be near to you”.
Update Day 5: Zaytouna-Oliva Receives Repairs and Supplies South of Crete
Mediterranean Sea south of Crete (Greece): During a storm a few nights ago, part of the rigging on the Zaytouna-Oliva was damaged by heavy winds. Although the damage was minor and she continued to make good progress for the last few days under motor towards the Greek island of Crete, she still needed her rigging fixed in order to continue the mission.
This morning our friends from Ship to Gaza Greece sent a repair boat which brought a skilled rigging specialist to repair the damage, as well as bringing more fuel and supplies.
According to Madeleine Habib, skipper of Zaytouna-Oliva: “the professionalism of rigger and team that came on board was great. It really meant so much to us! In addition to fuel and other supplies, the boat brought the women Greek desserts, solidarity and friendship.” Zohar Chamberlain Regev, coordinator of the Women’s Boat to Gaza who worked closely with women from Ship to Gaza Greece to arrange the needed repairs, adds: “This immediate response to our boat’s needs is just another example of how much solidarity there is around the world to help break the blockade of Gaza. While there are no Greek women on the boats, their campaign’s concrete solidarity has helped us on this international mission in a vital way.”
The Zaytouna-Oliva is now continuing on her way to break the illega blockade of Gaza, with many thanks to the solidarity and friendship from Greece! She is scheduled to reach the shores of Gaza later this week.
Spanish band Aspencat performs September 14 at flotilla send-off in Barcelona…