Sunday, November 09, 2008
European MPs reach blockaded Gaza by sea
65-foot boat carrying pro-Palestinian activists, European politicians docks in Strip in protest of Israeli sanctions imposed on Hamas. British MP: Even prisoners have rights, rights to have food and medicine and to live in dignity. People here in Gaza don't have those rights
A boat carrying pro-Palestinian activists and European politicians was allowed to dock in Gaza on Saturday despite a strict Israeli blockade, in the third such voyage in less than three months. The 20-metre (65-foot) "Dignity" arrived in Gaza at 9:30 am after departing from Cyprus on Friday to protest against the Israeli sanctions imposed after the Islamist Hamas movement seized the Gaza Strip in June 2007.
On board were 11 European politicians, most of them British, and activists of the US-based Free Gaza Movement who last month completed a second successful attempt to reach the Gaza Strip.
The ship, flying the flags of several countries including Britain, the United States and Canada alongside Palestinian flags, was greeted with little fanfare by Hamas officials and police forces, but few civilians.
The politicians plan to visit hospitals to deliver a ton of medical supplies and three scanners for use in treating spinal injuries.
They also plan to meet some of the 700 students who have been denied the right to leave Gaza and study at universities that have accepted them.
'Many more boats can come'
In addition to the British politicians, parliamentarians from Italy, Switzerland and Ireland also made the overnight voyage.
"Even prisoners have rights, rights to have food and medicine and to live in dignity. People here in Gaza don't have those rights," Lord Nazir Ahmad, Labor member of Britain's House of Lords and head of the delegation, told AFP.
British MP Clare Short, a former minister for international development, said upon arrival that "our governments are shameful in that they don't hold up international law and say to Israel the siege is illegal and must be broken."
"We came on this boat and many more boats can come, and that is what they must do," she added.
The voyage is the third such trip by the Free Gaza Movement in as many months to protest against the Israeli sanctions imposed after the Islamist Hamas movement seized power in the Gaza Strip in June 2007.
Israel had warned the activists ahead of the two previous journeys not to enter the closed military zone it maintains around the Gaza Strip, but it did not obstruct either voyage.
Israel has sealed Gaza off from all but limited humanitarian aid since Hamas -- which is sworn to destroying the Jewish state -- drove out forces loyal to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in a week of deadly street fighting.