World Bulletin / News Desk
Turkey renewed its call for calm to Israel that already revealed its plans to halt international aid convoy to the Gaza Strip that has been under years of siege.
International activists on Thursday reaffirmed its efforts to break three-year Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip despite Israeli threats it will stop a convoy of aid ships.
Israeli naval commandos have held drills as part of plans to block the humanitarian aid convoy.
Eight ships, including four cargo vessels and a Turkish passenger ferry carrying 600 people, were heading towards Gaza on the sliver of desert territory, home to 1.5 million Palestinians.
"We are planning on going. This is not going to stop us. The boats are already on their way," said Greta Berlin, a spokeswoman for the Free Gaza Movement.
The boats would converge at a meeting point in international waters east of Cyprus, probably late on Friday, and then head across the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea towards Gaza, Berlin told Reuters.
"Israel refuses to let anything into Gaza to help rebuild the society they blew to smithereens," said Berlin.
“We will resist non-violently, but this is going to be a PR nightmare for Israel,” she said.
"Israeli plan to stop aid ships"
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev calls "cheap political stunt", staying defiant to international pressure to end its siege, which what human rights activists call "genocide".
An Israeli military source said on Wednesday that Israel's navy was ready to prevent the Turkish-led convoy of ships.
"In accordance with the directions of the Israeli government, the Israel Defence Forces and the Israeli Navy are preparing to prevent the flotilla from reaching the Gaza shore," the military source said.
The source said naval forces had held a number of exercises to prepare to enforce the sea blockade.
Activists faced arrest and deportation, and their cargo would be confiscated for possible transfer by Israel to Gaza, Israeli military officials said.
"See you again in Gaza"
However, Turkish foreign ministry spokesman rejected Israeli accusations, saying "this is not a political show."
Turkish human rights organisation or IHH has chartered one passenger ferry and is one of the organisers.
"We don't want new tensions in the region...Problems can be avoided if this aid package is seen as humanitarian aid," Foreign Ministry spokesman Burak Ozugergin said.
Bulent Yildirim, President of IHH, said that they will not leave the fate of the flotilla in hands of Israel.
Yildirim said, in a statement, that despite Israeli threats and attempts to stop the campaign, activists from over 50 countries have joined the flotilla. Today, we are sailing off. May Allah be with us through our journey. We will see you again in Gaza”.
Mattias Gadelda, from Sweden, who bought a cargo ship to join the flotilla also stated that he is ashamed of the hypocrisy of Europe and Sweden.
Dimitris, who joined the flotilla from Greece on behalf of Ship to Gaza movement, in his speech, said, "We all know that governments, intellectuals and artists are here with us to support this cause. We are carrying out a public diplomacy attempt here. We are demanding a free Mediterranean and a free Palestine.”
Muhammed Sawalha, Head of the International Committee For Ending The Siege, said “This is an altruistic movement. We are ready to deal with the consequences. We are not intimidated by Israel.”
Activists from Vatican, Malaysia, Indonesia, Algeria, Kuwait, Pakistan, Palestine, Yemen and Belgium also put stress on their determination about going to Palestine, in their speeches.