Further delay for Gaza flotilla amid sabotage fears

Date: 6/29/2011

By Ella Ide (AFP) – Jun 29, 2011

ATHENS – Pro–palestinian activists hoping to draw international attention to Gaza's plight faced further setbacks Wednesday, as reports a second boat had been "sabotaged" pushed the departure back to the weekend at the earliest.

Frustrated volunteers for the Gaza–bound flotilla milled helplessly around in Athens as organisers also admitted they were making little headway with the Greek government over getting the necessary permission to set sail.

"The Irish boat has a problem with its propeller, we don't know yet how serious it is, but we believe it may have been sabotaged," said flotilla coordinator Claude Leostic.

The problem with the "Saoirse" (Gaelic for freedom) –– one of 10 vessels trying to leaving the Greek port of Piraeus –– followed Monday's news that the propeller on the "Juliano" boat, belonging to Swedish activists, had been cut.

Leostic said the Juliano, which is shared by Swedish, Norwegian and Greek activists, would not be fixed before Saturday at the earliest.

"Even if it were fixed, it is the least of our problems. We simply don't have the authority from the Greeks to leave the port. Only the Spanish and one of the French boats –– the Gernika and the Dignite –– are cleared to sail," Leostic said.

Initial fears over Israel's reaction to the flotilla's attempt to break through the blockade on the tiny Palestinian enclave has gradually been replaced by a creeping suspicion that the boats are going nowhere.

The organisers said the US boat, the 'Audacity of Hope,' had problems with its insurance and blamed the complications on the US government, which they said was "placing great pressure on Greece" to prevent them from leaving.

While they wait, some activists are planning to take their protest against the flotilla's delay to the streets. Others admitted that the ongoing bureaucratic and technical problems could mean the flotilla "will never leave."

Despite fears that activists will begin to pull out of the flotilla, organisers dismissed calls for those boats that are cleared to leave to set sail ahead of the others.

"We need to stick together. We're not going to jump the gun by setting off in just a few of the boats before the others are ready," said Leostic.

"Even if we can't leave in the end, it's not a defeat. Just getting this far has been a political victory," she added.


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