Athens: Greece coastguards enforced a ban on
all Gaza-bound ships setting sail from their ports for a
second day on Saturday, throwing pro-Palestinian activists` plans
increasingly into disarray.
Dissension spread among the remaining passengers of the
international Freedom Flotilla hoping to breach Israel`s sea
blockade on Gaza, after the US boat set sail unexpectedly
Friday and was intercepted by the coastguard.
The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas denounced Greece,
describing the action as "inhumane" and saying Athens had
played into Israeli hands, while activists slammed what they
called an "out-sourcing of Israeli foreign policy."
The Ship to Gaza organisation said Greek Prime Minister
George Papandreou had sold "Greece`s soul," by allowing
"Israeli territorial waters" to reach its shores.
Greece`s Civil Protection Authority confirmed Saturday
that the ban on departures of ships "with Greek and foreign
flags from Greek ports to the maritime area of Gaza" was in
place "until further notice."
With coastguards on the alert for copycat attempts to
defy the ban from the other boats involved, the flotilla
organisers argued over plans to get the remaining four boats
into international waters and on to Gaza.
Activists have accused Israeli secret services of
keeping the mission grounded through a campaign of harassment
and dirty tricks, including "sabotage" attempts on two boats
and a slew of bureaucratic problems.
Only four of the initial 10 boats were still in the
running today, Spain`s Gemika, the Canadian Tahrir and the
French Dignity and Louise Michel. It is not clear whether they
would carry the aid originally destined for Gaza.
The US Audacity of Hope had sailed without warning an
hour after the Greek authorities announced their ban
yesterday, and was quickly intercepted by a coastguard boat
with six masked, armed men on board.
US Captain John Klusmer was arrested and ordered to
appear in court Monday while the others were free to go but
"chose to stay on the boat in solidarity with the captain and
defiance of the Greek authorities," a spokesperson said.
They were still on the boat today, which was being
guarded at a small military port near Athens.
Furious "Boat to Gaza" organisers blamed Greece for
complicity, claiming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
had thanked Athens and world leaders for their stand against
the "provocative flotilla".
Hamas immediately called on the EU parliament and human
rights organisations "to put pressure on the Greek government"
to allow the flotilla to set sail, but remaining activists
began to fight among themselves over their next move.