Activists from around the world have gathered in the Italian city of Palermo to make final preparations before attempting to break the siege of Gaza.
This year’s Palestine Freedom Flotilla campaign will set off for Gaza in the coming days in boats packed with medical supplies, journalists and activists.
Participants are engaging in the campaign in a gesture of solidarity designed to boost the morale of Palestinians while highlighting to the world the dire situation in the Israeli-besieged Gaza Strip.
All four Freedom Flotilla boats arrived in Palermo on Monday. The al-Awda (Return), Freedom, Mairead and Palestine boats have travelled more than two months sailing from Scandinavia to Sicily. They have traveled over 4,000 nautical miles and visited over 15 European ports.
“We are just showing the Palestinians that there are people that really care. Believe it or not, some people say we are taking our lives in our hands to go to help them, to bring some solace to them; to let them know that there are people out there that actually care about them,” said Joe Meadors, a former UN navy technician and flotilla participant.
Gaza has been under an Israeli siege since June 2007, which has caused a sharp decline in living standards as well as unprecedented unemployment and poverty. According to the UN, the stringent conditions threaten to render the territory uninhabitable by 2020.
Egypt closely cooperates with Israel in maintaining the siege by keeping Rafah, Gaza’s only land terminal that bypasses Israel, closed most of the time.
Israel is predicted to intercept the flotilla off the coast of Gaza and either force it to turn around or arrest its participants and seize their property.
On May 31, 2010, Israeli commandos attacked one such flotilla, which was trying to take humanitarian aid to Gaza, in international waters in the Mediterranean, killing 10 activists onboard.