Six ships that were scheduled to take part in the Gaza-bound flotilla have been detained by Greek port authorities, the Israeli news website ‘Ynet’ reported. Senior officials in Jerusalem confirmed the report, which followed a decision by Greece on Sunday to stop the American vessel ‘Audacity of Hope' from participating in the convoy. While the organizers claim that more than 1,500 activists are set to take part in this year’s flotilla, it now appears that no more than seven ships, carrying between 200 and 500 passengers, will set sail next week.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that Israel would not allow any ship to breach its naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. Jerusalem believes that the dwindling extent of the sail can be largely attributed to the Israeli Foreign Ministry's diplomatic efforts to stop the flotilla. "The Foreign Ministry is leading diplomatic efforts to delegitimize the flotilla in the eyes of the international community," Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon said. "The world is aware that such sails are unnecessary, that they are just provocations which violate international law." Ayalon added that Israel was still gearing to meet whichever vessels do end up participating in the flotilla.
On Monday, the Israeli Security Cabinet voted in favor of stopping the flotilla from breaching the maritime blockade and from reaching its shores. The senior ministers ordered the IDF to "adamantly" stop the sail should it try to breach the siege, while doing everything possible to spare human lives.
Organizers of the second flotilla, which include the Islamist group IHH in Turkey, have come under growing pressure to cancel the sail, denounced by the United States, the UN and the EU as unnecessary provocation. Last week, the plans suffered a setback when IHH announced that its main ship, the Mavi Marmara, would not be taking part in sail.
The activist Dror Feiler, chairman of the Swedish Organisation Jews for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, said at a press conference: "We are going to sail, we have ten boats, we have cargo boats and they will not stop us. If they will try to physically stop us we will come again and again and again...because this our purpose, to open the traffic of people and goods to make the relations in Gaza normal again."
Feiler (pictured on the left) added: "After the Holocaust two kinds of Jews evolved. One kind, because of the terrible experience, say: 'We will do everything we can to never let this happen to us again.' The other kind of Jews say: 'We will never let it happen to anybody again.' It has been 13 months since the attack on the Mavi Marmara, they killed 9 of our brothers, 13 months of hard work and we have finally come to the conclusion: We are on our way to Gaza.”