The remaining five ships of the Freedom Flotilla are due to leave Cypriot waters and sail for Gaza within the hour, according to various media reports. Two ships will remain in port to repair mechanical problems while the Rachel Corrie is still underway from Ireland.
Meanwhile, Israel is preparing to deploy three missile ships, including with a warship, and obsesrvation jets to intercept the flotilla, the Israeli Ynet News is reporting. The Hanit warship has been described as one of Israel’s “most advanced missile boats.”
“’Experience shows that a large number of forces diminishes the volume of violence needed to carry out the mission,’ a Navy statement said,” the Ynet article stated
The Navy and the Israel Air Force’s observation jets are following the various vessels en route to Gaza and are prepared to first deploy the Navy’s missile ships which are docked in Haifa, and then, the rest of the forces.
“The Navy hopes it will not have to use its extensive force and that the flotilla will retreat once its ships’ captains are warned. If this does not happen, Shayetet 13 officers are ready to take over the ships by force. Naval officers will board the ships and sail them according to the Navy commander’s orders,” Ynet reported.
Activists will be detained and transported to the port city of Ashedod, which Israel already has prepared as a “giant interrogation room,” the Palestine Monitor said, quoting the Hebrew-language newspaper Ma’ariv.
“The police, the General Security Service of Israel, and the Ministry of Interior’s Oz unit have set up a detention and interrogation facility capable of handling hundreds of people,” the Monitor reported. “According to Ma’ariv, ‘Every Israeli citizen on board will be arrested and questioned by the police, Palestinian citizens will be questioned by the police and GSS, and foreign nationals and diplomats will be handed over to the Oz unit for handling and will be expelled to their countries of origin.’”
Despite the threats, the civil resistance and humanitarian activists aboard the flotilla say they are determined to stay the course. The American Muslims for Palestine on Saturday received an email sent my Fatima Mohammadi, who is a passenger aboard the Mavi Marmara.
“Israel has promised the use of force against this unarmed convoy of volunteers, who range in age from 1 ½ to 88, if it does not turn back,” Mohammadi wrote. “If denied entry, the aid and volunteers are prepared to wait in International waters for as long as necessary to draw global attention to the siege and to encourage international intervention from the more than 32 countries represented on the humanitarian convoy.”
The exiled Archbishop of Jerusalem, Father Hilarion Capucci, is aboard the Mavi Marara. Also aboard is a couple who hope to reunite with their children, whom they left behind in Gaza when they went to Turkey for cancer treatment more than 18 months ago. When the parents returned, Egyptian officials would not let them enter Gaza and instead deported them back to Turkey, the couple told Al Jazeera English.
While the fleet of five vessels will continue toward Gaza today, organizers say a second flotilla may be sent on Tuesday.
“Now we are thinking of sending a second wave of boats including these two (currently under repair) and the Rachel Corrie, which is still en route” from Ireland, said Audrey Bomse, an adviser to the Free Gaza Movement, according to Al Jazeera English.
The American Muslims for Palestine and the Free Gaza Movement will stage a rally at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in front of the Israeli Consulate, 111 E. Wacker Drive, Chicago. For more information, click here.