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Fewer than 300 join flotilla

Major blow to organizers with number of activists failing to meet expectations, more may cancel

Aviel Magnezi
Published: 06.28.11, 17:05 / Israel News

Fewer than 300 activists will be participating in the Gaza flotilla – a much smaller number than originally expected, with an additional decrease expected.

 

An internal flotilla memorandum which reached Ynet reveals that the flotilla is expected sail with fewer than 300 participants and a few dozen journalists, assuming that no further delays or incidents occur before the flotilla sets sail.

 

 

According to the memorandum the Italian ship Stefano Chiarim is expected to have 65 people on board – the largest number of passengers in the flotilla. The Canadian ship "Tahrir" will have 48 passengers and the American ship Audacity of Hope, which is currently being held at port by Greek authorities, is set to have 40 passengers.

 

There are an additional seven ships from Spain, Ireland, Sweden, Greece and Norway which are expected to set sail. The organizers' most optimistic scenario is that there will be 292 passengers with an additional 36 journalists.

 

But it is highly likely that some of the ships will be declared unfit to sail. In addition, it is possible that the Greek government will withhold a departure authorization, making the number of participants even smaller.

 

Flotilla passenger lists

 

Speaking to Ynet, Dror Feiler, a former Israeli and one of the flotilla organizers, admitted that the number of participants is relatively low. "The situation isn't good, it is true that we will sail with fewer passengers than the previous flotilla but aside from various reasons, we must remember that the Turks aren't participating so Israel won't be able to claim that this is an Islamist flotilla, so there are benefits."

 

Feiler was speaking from the decks of the Greek-Swedish ship "Juliano" named for actor Juliano Mer-Khamis. The flotilla organizers claim that Israel has sabotaged the ship and the participation of its 25 passengers is now in doubt. "The ship will be going in for repairs for a few days and then will be on its way," he promised.

 

Feiler also firmly rejected claims that some of the flotilla activists were planning on harming IDF soldiers using chemical substances and setting them on fire. "This is incitement, these claims are completely false and the people spreading the allegations know this. We have no violent intentions and more than that, if Israel knows of anyone of us who is violent or anything about chemical substances they should tell us and we will take those people off the ships."

 

Meanwhile, calls are increasing within the defense establishment to confiscate any vessels that will attempt to break through the blockade on Gaza. The move is meant to deter ships from participating in future flotillas. Senior officers have noted that sending the Mavi Marmara back to Turkey after the first Gaza flotilla did not make an incisive statement towards organizers.

 

Hanan Greenberg contributed to the report

 

 

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