Organizers of the Turkish flotilla to Gaza are adamant about going ahead with their plans to challenge Israel's blockade next month despite official reports that the Rafah border crossing will be opened to Palestinians as of Saturday.
"We shall set sail, we have many surprises in store," IHH spokesman Ömer Faruk said. "If there really is no blockade then there shouldn't be a problem with us going there. Everything will become clearer next month."
Faruk claims that had the previous flotilla not departed, the Rafah border would not have been opened. "That's the language people understand, it's the only way they will pay attention to Palestinian suffering. If there will be a more convenient way, we'll take it, but right now our attention is focused on the population in Gaza."
The spokesman declared they will act peacefully, adding "we only hope the Israeli side acts the same."
Earlier this week, IHH head Bulent Yildirim said, "Even if we sacrifice shahids (martyrs) for this cause, we will be on the side of justice."
Mavi Marmara. 'We will act peacefully' (Archive photo: AFP)
Huwaida Araf of the Free Gaza movement also claimed the flotilla will go ahead as planned. Araf, a native of Detroit who is currently residing in Ramallah, said that the opening of the Rafah crossing does not rule out the need for a flotilla. "The purpose of the sail is the stop the harm caused to Palestinians and to change the situation created because of Israeli policy," she said.
"It's not just Gaza. It’s the West Bank and Jerusalem. Israel continues to hurt Palestinian rights illegally. This policy must change, and opening Rafah will not change the fact that Palestinian fishermen cannot fish more than five km away. "
Israeli expat Dror Fyler, who heads the Gaza movement in Sweden is also planning to join the flotilla. "The opening of the crossing is good news both for Israel and the Palestinians," he said. "It will reduce the pressure and give Gazans breathing space which will minimize the possibility of extremists exploiting the situation for violence."
Marmara nearly ready to set sail
But the flotilla is still necessary, he claimed. "The opening of the crossing still depends on the Egyptians' mood, they may decide to close it after two days. This also applies to Israel – sometimes it opens crossings, sometimes it closes them. We are acting on the belief that the Palestinians must have control over their own passageways and points of contact with the world. The blockade must end."
Fyler admitted that radicals may try to cause provocations. "I call upon representatives of the UN and the EU to board the ships and check the passengers and cargo before and after the sail."
He noted that journalists from all over the world will take part in the flotilla, as well as dozens of European parliament members.
"We hope the Israeli army has learned its lesson," he said. "To start shooting is easy – stopping is not so easy. It will only be over when the blockade is over."
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