Ships bringing tons of supplies to Gaza delayed
JERUSALEM — Ships carrying 10,000 tons of supplies and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to blockaded Gaza were being held up near Cyprus yesterday, as organizers tried to get nearly two dozen high-profile supporters on board.
The flotilla was to set sail toward Gaza yesterday, in any event, and approach the territory today, about 24 hours behind schedule, said Greta Berlin, one of the activists.
A showdown with the Israeli Navy appeared inevitable. Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, reiterated yesterday that the ships would be intercepted, denouncing the sea convoy as a provocation and violation of maritime laws. Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza after the Islamic militant group Hamas seized the territory by force three years ago.
In Gaza, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said the flotilla signals the end of the blockade.
“If the ships reach Gaza, it’s a victory for Gaza,’’ Haniyeh told some 400 supporters yesterday, after touring Gaza City’s small fishing harbor where several smaller vessels breaking the blockade have docked in the past. “If they are intercepted and terrorized by the Zionists, it will be a victory for Gaza, too, and they will move again in new ships to break the siege of Gaza.’’
In Cyprus, organizers were trying to find a way to have two dozen would-be passengers, including 19 European legislators and an elderly Holocaust survivor, join the ships anchored in international waters off the island.
The Cypriot government did not allow smaller boats to ferry the group to the flotilla, citing the need to protect the island’s “vital interests,’’ including economic ties with Israel.