French protest boat quits Greece for Gaza: organisers
A small French pleasure craft with eight protesters on board left Greek waters overnight and set off for Gaza in an attempt to break an Israeli naval blockade, organisers said Tuesday.
The "Dignite al Karama" is so far the only boat in a planned flotilla organised by pro-Palestinian activists to set sail from Greece, after the authorities there blocked other vessels from taking part in the protest.
The 19-metre (63-foot) motor cruiser is carrying, among others, the former French far-left presidential candidate Olivier Besancenot, Green Party Euro-MP Nicole Kiil-Nielsen and trade unionist Annick Coupe.
They expect to be off Gaza within an day or two, the group told AFP.
"The boat was able to take on board fuel and food. It's heading towards Gaza," said Jean-Claude Lefort, spokesman for "A French Boat for Gaza", the French wing of the international maritime demonstration.
"We are going to send a delegation to the French foreign ministry to ask for protection. Depending on how that goes, we will advise on our progress," he added. Israel has warned it will halt any vessels approaching Gaza.
Asked how the Dignite had managed to slip past the Greek authorities, which have prevented the rest of the flotilla in Athens' port Piraeus, Lefort said: "It wasn't spotted. It wasn't in Piraeus, it was somewhere else."
On Monday, Greek forces intercepted a Canadian boat carrying more than 30 Gaza-bound activists from Canada, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland and Turkey and forced it to moor in Crete.
© 2011 AFP