'Jewish boat to Gaza' leaves Cyprus
Famagusta: A boat carrying
Jewish activists from Israel, Europe and the United States set
sail on Sunday from Cyprus bound for Gaza, in a bid to run
Israel's blockade of the Palestinian territory, a news agency reporter said.
The boat, named "Irene," left the port of Famagusta
in the Turkish-held north of the divided eastern Mediterranean
island in the early afternoon carrying eight activists, three
of whom are crew members, and two journalists.
Reuven Moskovitz, an 82-year-old passenger who
survived the Nazi Holocaust, told AFP he felt duty-bound to
attempt the voyage, which is expected to take around 36 hours.
"It is a sacred duty for me, as a (Holocaust)
survivor, to protest against the persecution, the oppression
and the imprisonment of so many people in Gaza, including more
than 800,000 children," Moskovitz said.
Yonatan Shapira, a former pilot for the Israel
Defense Forces and crew member on the British-flagged sailing
boat, said they were not looking for a confrontation.
"We have a policy of non-violence and
non-confrontation," he said.
"But if the Israeli army stops the boat, we will
not help them to take it to Ashdod," he said, referring to a
port in southern Israel where other blockade runners have been
taken after being stopped by the navy.
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has repeatedly
warned that Israel will intercept any ship nearing Gaza, which
is run by the Islamist movement Hamas.
In May, Israeli forces tried to stop a six-ship
flotilla heading for Gaza but the raid went badly wrong, and
nine Turkish activists were killed, prompting a wave of
"The boat's cargo includes symbolic aid in the form
of children's toys and musical instruments, textbooks, fishing
nets for Gaza's fishing communities and prosthetic limbs for
orthopaedic medical care in Gaza's hospitals," said a
statement from the organisers, Jews for Justice for
Richard Kuper, a member of the organising group,
said that "the Jewish Boat to Gaza is a symbolic act of
protest against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian
territories and the siege of Gaza, and a message of solidarity
to Palestinians and Israelis who seek peace and justice.
"Israeli government policies are not supported by
all Jews." Kuper said in the statement.
"We are banging our head on a very hard wall of
hatred. Our hope is to make little cracks on that wall, so
that in the end it will fall," said activist Rami Elhanan, who
is also on the boat.