Israeli peace activist Yonatan Shapira, who had been a combat pilot in the Israeli Air Force and refused to take part in the bombing of Palestinian cities, has arrived on board the Swedish boat “Estelle” which is making her way towards the coast of Gaza. When the Estelle passed near the shores of Greece, Shapira and other activists made their way in a motorboat, evading vessels of the Greek Coast Guard which sought to bar their way. “Along with the Greek Coast Guard we saw a ship which seemed very much like an Israeli Navy vessel, though it did not fly a flag” said Shapira. He was received with cheers by activists already on board. Shapira had taken part in a similar sailing last year, being taken off by Israeli Navy Commandos near the Gaza shore and spending time in police detention, but not charged with any criminal offence.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor has sent a letter calling on the United Nations to stop the Estelle from reaching her destination. To this activists on board respond: “If this means that Israel has decided to cede control over Palestinian territorial waters to the UN, this would actually be a step forward.
The UN and many other representatives of the International Community have for years characterized the siege of the Gaza strip as inhuman and incompatible with International Law.
Ship to Gaza Sweden assumes that that UN will not take over the implementation of this policy, by itself preventing a peaceful vessel from delivering humanitarian supplies.
Ship to Gaza and the Freedom Flotilla have never opposed lawful inspections of cargo and vessel by representatives of the UN, as well as by national authorities in the ports and waters we have passed through. We welcome further inspections of this kind by the UN, once we have anchored at Gaza City. What we refuse to accept is something which also the UN and the majority of The International Community oppose: The illegal siege of the Gaza Strip, with its devastating humanitarian results.
The Estelle has now set course to Gaza and, weather permitting, is due to get there on Saturday.
Adam Keller, Spokesperson of Gush Shalom, who is in ongoing contact with the Estelle activists, says that Israel’s Prime Minister and Defense Minister still have some forty-eight hours’ grace to make a wise and courageous decision, avoid another show of Israeli brute force in international waters and let the Estelle dock at the Port of Gaza – while implementing a thorough UN inspection of her cargo, to which the activists specifically consent.