New Gaza peace flotilla to have up to 20 boats: organisers

19th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

Aid groups planning a second peace flotilla to Gaza hope to send at least twice the number of boats as took part in the first ill-fated attempt in May, they announced Tuesday.

The second flotilla will have "between 12 and 20 boats" carrying humanitarian aid compared to just six for the first, Manuel Tapial, a Spanish member of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, told a news conference.

Tapiel was part of the peace flotilla that ended on May 31 Israeli forces intercepted the ships. The raid went badly wrong and nine Turkish activists -- including one with US citizenship -- were killed, prompting a wave of international condemnation.

The flotilla was carrying aid but was also aimed at pressing Israel to lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Sixteen organisation from 16 countries -- Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Greece, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States -- are joining the new trip, which is to start "between March and May" from several European countries, he said.

Groups taking part announced the bid last week following a meeting in Geneva.

"Our objective is both humanitarian and political," said the Spanish representative for the flotilla, Dimitris Plionis.

He noted that a report by the UN Human Rights Council found there was clear evidence to back prosecutions against Israel for killing and torture when its troops stormed the Mavi Marmara, the lead ship in the May flotilla.

This report "gives us the legal basis to undertake our actions", Plionis said.

© 2010 AFP

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