Freedom Flotilla ‘prepared for everything’ despite facing German harassment
Freedom Flotilla organisers say they are facing logistical difficulties in Germany as the convoy attempts to head towards the besieged Gaza Strip.
After departing from Scandinavian ports in Sweden and Norway, the flotilla, named al-Awda, headed to Germany on its way to Amsterdam.
But officials told The New Arab that an hour before reaching the German port of Wilhelmshaven, port authorities forced al-Awda ship to remain stagnant in the middle of the sea amid questioning.
“We have been facing harassment from the start,” an official told The New Arab.
They say the authorities retracted their initial promise of allowing ship space for docking, leaving boats floating in the middle of the sea while the flotilla negotiated with German authorities.
But despite the initial difficulties in Germany and the fact that the trip will only become harder as they directly face Israel, flotilla officials remain optimistic.
Responding to a question on Israel's coming reaction to the flotilla, activists maintained they were "ready for everything," asserting that they are "a civil, nonviolent movement.”
Breaking the siege
The four-ship Freedom Flotilla set sail on Monday 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.
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 characterised 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.