Gaza City: A convoy of ships containing
pro-Palestinian activists and aid destined for the blockaded
Gaza Strip on Sunday prepared to steam south from Cyprus
towards Israeli naval vessels determined to stop them.
The ships, carrying more than 700 passengers, are
readying for the last leg of a high-profile mission to deliver
tonnes of aid to Gaza, which has been under a crippling
Israeli blockade since 2007.
With the long-delayed flotilla expected to arrive at
some stage over the next 24 hours, Gaza fishermen took to the
sea flying Palestinian flags as well as those of Greece,
Ireland, Sweden and Turkey -- all of which sent boats.
Israel has slammed as "illegal" the convoy`s attempt
to break its blockade on Gaza, and has naval forces at the
ready to intercept the ships and detain the pro-Palestinian
activists on board.
"I am asking the international community to protect
these boats from the Israeli threat," independent Palestinian
MP Jamal Al-Khudari said during a news conference on a boat
anchored just outside the Gaza port.
"If Israel blocks them, they have a strategy for
getting here," added Khudari, who heads the Gaza-based
Committee to Lift the Siege, without giving anything more
As tensions mounted, several Israeli warships could
be seen off the Gaza coast, a news agency photographer said.
Khudari said the convoy, which is carrying hundreds
of civilians and a handful of European MPs, would stop outside
Gaza territorial waters before attempting to make landfall.
It will travel "in two stages," he said: "First
they will stop in international waters at 30 nautical miles
(from Gaza), and tomorrow (Monday) they will reach the shore."