Gaza flotilla likely under Israeli attack as contact lost: Report

Press TV – A Swedish-flagged boat attempting to break the siege of Gaza is said to be under attack by Israeli forces as contact with the ship is lost.

‘”At 20:06 (CEST) we lost contact with the yacht Freedom, sailing under a Swedish flag, which is on a mission to break the illegal Israeli blockade of the Palestinian people of Gaza. We have reason to presume that the Israeli occupation forces have now begun to attack it and that it has been surrounded in international waters. The latest reported position was approximately 40 nautical miles from the coast of Gaza,” said rights organization Right to a Just Future for Palestine in a Saturday statement.

Press TV reporter Richard Sudan, who’s currently on board The Freedom vessel which is carrying medical aid for besieged Palestinians, as well as activists who’re trying to raise awareness about the Israeli-imposed blockade, had earlier reported that he and 11 pro-Palestine activists on board the boat were less than 90 nautical miles from Gaza.

“About a day or so ago we actually stopped briefly in Alexandria,” he said. “We were expecting to actually receive some kind of resistance from the Egyptian military, but on the contrary once they had checked us out they actually advised us to be on our way. There were a few people there that were favourable.”

But Richard Sudan said he expects The Freedom to be apprehended by Israeli forces sometime on Friday, given that a previous Flotilla vessel, the Al Awda, was attacked on Sunday.

“Given that the Al Awda was roughly 49 nautical miles when it was intercepted, we expect to be apprehended within the next 4-5 hours which is our remaining time of daylight,” Sudan said.

“It could be the case that the Israeli occupation forces want to apprehend us at night time which would be a completely different story. Obviously, we know that there was some level of violence involved from the Israeli Navy when they took over the Al Awda so everyone’s obviously a bit nervous. And we’re very close. We imaginably might actually make it through the blockade.”

He added: “Everyone is in good spirits, of course there’s medical aid on board. It’s a completely non-violent mission for which the activists on board have been trained.  If there’s going to be any violence on board, it won’t be from any of these activists here. There’s a strategy in place which is very specific which involves essentially no resistance at all. We’re not sure if that was the case on the Al Awda; we hear they tried to stop the Israeli occupational forces from taking over the navigation area.”

On Sunday Israeli forces attacked the Al Awda and towed it to the Israeli port of Ashdod after it disobeyed commands to stop sailing towards the Gaza Strip.

The ships have taken about two months to reach the coast of Gaza after setting sail from Scandinavia and stopping along the way at several port cities in Europe.

In the past, most boats have been stopped by the Israel Navy several dozen miles away from Gaza’s coast and then towed to Ashdod where activists are detained, questioned and then deported from Israel.

One of the most high-profile attempts in 2010 turned deadly when Israeli commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara flotilla ship attempting to reach Gaza. Ten Turkish activists died in the attack.

Israel has imposed movement restrictions on the Gaza Strip since the early 1990’s. Restrictions intensified in June 2007 when Israel imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Gaza, citing security concerns.

About 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza remain “locked in,” denied free access to the remainder of Palestine and the outside world. The blockade has undermined the living conditions in the coastal enclave and fragmented its economic and social fabric. The isolation of Gaza has been exacerbated by restrictions imposed by the Egyptian authorities on Rafah, its single passenger crossing.