15 women to try to break Gaza blockade
The Zaytouna-Oliva, which set sail from Barcelona earlier this month, will try to reach the strip, as the Israeli Navy prepares to stop it and escort it to the Ashdod Port; Northern Ireland activist and 1976 Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire is among those on board.
The Israeli Navy is preparing to stop a group of women who will try to reach the Gaza Strip on board a boat on Wednesday in a bid to break a decade-long blockade by Israel.
"We have about 90 miles to go until we get to the Strip," reported Al-Jazeera correspondent Mina Harbalo from the ship Zaytouna-Oliva. "We're (going) at a pace of 7 miles per hour, which means the ship will reach Gaza tonight."
Harbalo presented the women on board, saying, "The activists behind me are prepared for everything, and are preparing a contingency plan if the original plan– to reach the Gaza Strip and meet with their besieged sisters in the Gaza Strip - doesn't work."
According to Harbalo, the activists are prepared for a situation in which the IDF stops the vessel. "The activists say they will not violently resist any provocation from the Israeli soldiers. They say that their journey is non- violent." She later mentioned the fair weather they were experiencing.
"The activists have a strong desire to reach the Gaza Strip. Morale is high. What's important here is that the message has arrived and that we will get to the Strip – whether the womens' feet set foot on its soil or not. The message has arrived, especially when the goal is to turn the world's attention to the besieged Gaza Strip and the Palestinian issue in general," Harbalo added, saying the activists were happy that their actions have also caused the Palestinian issue to once again rise to the headlines.
Fifteen women will try to breach the blockade aboard the Zaytouna-Oliva boat early on Wednesday, said spokeswoman Claude Leotic.
"But we fear there will be an Israeli attack" to prevent the boat from reaching Gaza's shores, she told AFP Tuesday in a telephone interview.
Much like other similar instances since the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla, the Navy will not allow the boat to arrive in Gaza and it will likely be escorted to the port of Ashdod.
The Zaytouna-Oliva is one of two vessels that set sail from Barcelona in September.
The flotilla dubbed "Women's Boat to Gaza," is part of the wider Freedom Flotilla Coalition that consists of pro-Palestinian boats that regularly go to Gaza from all over the world to try to break the blockade.
None have yet managed to get through, and Israeli authorities have made several arrests.
One such operation turned to tragedy in 2010 when Israeli commandos killed 10 Turkish activists in a raid on the Mavi Marmara flotilla. The incident strained ties between Turkey and Israel, with the crisis only resolved earlier this year with the signing of a reconciliation agreement.
Among the women of different nationalities on board the Zaytouna-Oliva is Northern Ireland activist and 1976 Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire.
A South African passenger, Leigh-Ann Naidoo, told AFP she expected the boat to be 100 nautical miles off the shores of Gaza by 3am GMT.
"Our goal is to reach Gaza. We are not worried about what Israel plans on doing," she added.
In early July, a week after Israel and Turkey signed their reconciliation agreement, a Turkish aid ship arrived at the Ashdod Port with food, medicine and toys that were checked and then transported into the Gaza Strip. On board were 22 crewmen, journalists and Red Crescent personnel. All were approved entry to Israel by the Interior Ministry.
Yoav Zitun contributed to this report.