'Freedom Flotilla' arrives in Denmark ahead of Gaza journey
A four-ship Freedom Flotilla has set sail for the Gaza Strip to challenge Israel's decade-old blockade of the besieged territory.
The Al-Awda, Arabic for The Return, vessel set sail a week ago from Norway and linked up with three other boats in Copenhagen, Denmark on Sunday, before beginning a tour of European ports which will end in the Gaza Strip.
"In response to the brutal Israeli blockade, for seven years, the Freedom Flotilla Coalition has carried out non-violent direct actions aimed at raising international awareness and putting pressure on the international community to end it," a statement said.
"We will continue to put pressure on our governments and protest their complicity with Israel's crimes against humanity."
The boat was named to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, or Catastrophe, in which more than 700,000 Palestinians fled or were forcibly expelled from their homes during the establishment of the Israeli state.
This year's freedom flotilla comes just weeks after Israeli forces opened fire on demonstrators in Gaza protesting for the right of return, killing more than 60.
"The blockade of Gaza is in its 11th year. It is such a gross violation of international law that it can be characterized as a crime against humanity," participant Mikkel Grüner, a Danish national who is city councillor in Bergen, Norway, said.
Volunteers will join the multinational fleet for different legs of the journey, with a select group assigned to participate in the final run to Gaza.
The flotilla schedule will be kept confidential to guard against interference. In the past, mechanical failures have affected previous flotilla attempts, with allegations Israel may have tampered with the ships.
In 2010, Israeli forces boarded a Turkish-operated flotilla of six ships headed for Gaza and killed nine activists, leading to a diplomatic fallout with Turkey.
The ships were stopped in international waters.