International civilian aid flotilla aims to break Gaza siege

April 10, 2024
boats in harbour
The Freedom Flotilla plans to deliver urgently needed food and medical supplies to Palestinians in Gaza. Photo:

The international Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC) sets sail in April to challenge the ongoing illegal Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Hundreds of international human rights observers will take 5500 tonnes of humanitarian aid to desperate and starving Palestinians.

The FFC describes itself as “a non-partisan international coalition of campaigns standing for freedom and human rights”. Since 2010 it has sailed with the goal of breaking the blockade.

It states its “non-violent direct action missions support the dignity and humanity of Palestinians, working with civil society partners, rather than any party, faction or government”.

This “emergency mission” is being organised as famine spreads in northern Gaza, and Palestinians throughout the Gaza Strip are severely deprived of necessities — a deliberate Israeli government policy.

“Time is critical as experts predict that hunger and disease could claim more lives than have been killed in the bombing,” said the FFC.

Getting humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza is urgent, it said, but not sufficient.

It also wants to end Israel’s unlawful, deadly blockade, as well as Israel’s overall control of Gaza.

The FFC argues that the Cyprus maritime corridor, the United States’ floating pier project and largely symbolic air drops of food are a distraction. “These methods of aid delivery are insufficient and still leave Israel in control of what aid can get to the Palestinian people.”

Israel is still preventing thousands of aid trucks from entering Gaza through land crossings, said the FFC.

The International Court of Justice ruled on January 26 that Israel “remains bound to fully comply with its obligations under the Genocide Convention … including by ensuring the safety and security of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”

The ICJ ordered additional preliminary measures on March 28, which included requiring the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to stop “preventing, through any action, the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian assistance” to Palestinians in Gaza.

“Israeli military and political leaders have repeatedly declared their intention to collectively punish the entire population of Gaza, including by denying them food, water and other life-sustaining aid,” said the FFC.

“We therefore reject Israel’s control over the humanitarian aid that can enter Gaza and reject any Israeli inspection of our cargo.

“For everyone’s safety and to ensure aid is delivered to those who need it, the FFC is bringing hundreds of international humanitarian observers, from many countries and different backgrounds.”

Ismail Moola of South Africa’s Palestine Solidarity Alliance, part of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, said: “The [ICJ’s] ruling requires the whole world to play their part to stop the genocide unfolding in Gaza, including unobstructed access to vital aid. While our governments fail to lead in these urgently required humanitarian responses, people of conscience and our grassroots organizations must act to take leadership.

“When governments fail, we sail!”

Aotearoa/New Zealand solidarity group Kia Ora Gaza is a member of the FFC. It has supported the participation of Kiwis in six international solidarity land convoys and flotillas to break the illegal siege of Gaza. Three Kiwi doctors — two Palestinian and one Iraqi-born — have volunteered this year to participate in the flotilla and offer their services if the ships reach Gaza.

Northern Rivers Friends of Palestine activist Surya McEwen is participating in the flotilla from Australia.

McEwan, who lives in Byron Bay, wrote on his fundraising page that he has “chosen to face the potential danger involved in such a voyage” for many reasons, “including that 2.3 million human beings [are] being deliberately starved” and “many hundreds of thousands [are] injured and traumatised and desperate for medicine that's being deliberately denied them.

“A genocide is unfolding before our eyes and our leaders critique it cautiously in public, while providing arms contracts and weapons parts to carry on the carnage in our name.

“Governments internationally should’ve stepped up and demanded humanitarian aid for the starving, hurting masses of Gaza. But they won’t, so we must.”

The FFC’s voyage is all the more dangerous in light of the targeted attack on aid workers from the World Central Kitchen (WCK), and Israel’s attacks on humanitarian workers, doctors and nurses.

FFC said of Israel’s attack on the WCK that it was a “war crime” which “impacts aid workers, aid organizations and aid-dependent people throughout Gaza”.

However, the coalition is determined to embark on its voyage, saying: “Despite this egregious attack, the Freedom Flotilla Coalition is sailing soon and we also plan to deliver urgently needed food, as well as medical supplies, to Palestinians in Gaza.”

[For more information visit Freedom Flotilla.]

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