FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Date : 08-23-2008
GAZA (23 August 2008) – Two small boats, the SS Free Gaza and the SS Liberty, successfully landed in Gaza early this evening, breaking the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The boats were crewed by a determined group of international human rights workers from the Free Gaza Movement. They had spent two years organizing the effort, raising money by giving small presentations at churches, mosques, synagogues, and in the homes of family, friends, and supporters.
They left Cyprus on Thursday morning, sailing over 350 kilometers through choppy seas. They made the journey despite threats that the Israeli government would use force to stop them. They continued sailing although they lost almost all communications and navigation systems due to outside jamming by some unknown party. They arrived in Gaza to the cheers and joyful tears of hundreds of Palestinians who came out to the beaches to welcome them.
Two small boats, 42 determined human rights workers, one simple message: “The world has not forgotten the people of this land. Today, we are all from Gaza.”
Tonight, the cheering will be heard as far away as Tel Aviv and Washington D.C.
A STATEMENT TO THE PRESS FROM THE FREE GAZA MOVEMENT
For more information, please contact:
JERUSALEM: Angela Godfrey-Goldstein
Tel. +972 547 366 393
CYPRUS: Osama Qashoo
Tel. +44 78 333 81660 / +44 79 779 3595
Forty-six international human rights workers are now sailing to Gaza through international waters with one overriding goal: to break the Israeli siege that Israel has imposed on the civilian population of Gaza. Any action designed to harm civilians constitutes collective punishment (in the Palestinians’ case, for voting the “wrong” way) and is both illegal under international law and profoundly immoral. Our mission is to expose the illegality of Israel’s actions, and to break through the siege in order to express our solidarity with the suffering people of Gaza (and of the occupied Palestinian territory as a whole) and to create a free and regular channel between Gaza and the outside world.
Israel claims that since the “disengagement” in 2005 it no longer occupies Gaza. However, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other international human rights organizations reject this claim since Israel still exerts effective control over Gaza. As an Occupying Power, Israel has a responsibility for the well-being of the people of Gaza under the provisions of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel has abused its control and responsibilities by wrongfully obstructing vital supplies and humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza.
As Israel’s 41-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip defies international consensus, and because Israel has grossly violated its obligations, we do not recognize Israel’s right to stop us outside its own territorial waters, which we will not be approaching. To remove any “security” pretense that Israel may raise, we have had our boats inspected and certified by Cypriot authorities that they carry no arms or contraband of any kind. We have invited Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to join us on our voyage and, in fact, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has itself told us the Israeli government “assume[s] that your intentions are good.”
We are human rights activists, invited to visit Gaza by our Palestinian partners, and each of us has vowed to do no violence, in either word or deed. If Israel chooses to forcibly stop and search our ships, we will not forcibly resist. Such a search will be under duress and with our formal protest. After such a search, we fully expect the Israeli navy to stand aside, as we continue peacefully to Gaza. If we are arrested and brought to Israel, we will protest and prosecute our kidnapping in the appropriate forums. It is our purpose to show the power that ordinary citizens of the world have when they organize together to stand against injustice. Let there be no doubt: the policies of repression against the civilian population of Gaza represent gross violations of human rights, international humanitarian law, and constitute war crimes. The goal of our voyage is to break the illegal siege on the people of Gaza as a step toward ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Satellite phone numbers available on the boats will be: a) 00 870 773 160 151; b) 00 870 773 160 156 c) 00 881 651 442 553 ; d) 00 881 651 427 948 .
(21.0 8.200 8) Today at 1:30 pm, the passengers and crew of the SS FREE GAZA and the SS LIBERTY will hold a memorial service at the Northern end of the commercial port in Larnaca. This service will commemorate the 14 fishermen of Gaza who have been killed by the Israeli Navy over the past four years as they were fishing off their coast.
The service will also be held for the 34 American sailors killed aboard the US LIBERTY by Israeli forces in 1967.
We will lay flowers in the water for these forgotten seamen from two countries, the Palestinians killed while trying to feed their families and the American sailors who were attacked by Israeli fighter jets and submarines for 75 minutes on June 8, 1967.
Please join us for this short memorial service. Afterwards, we will be available for interviews. We will also be able to announce when we are leaving for Gaza.
Free Gaza Movement