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Another boat heads for Gaza, after deadly Israeli raid sparks outrage

Photo: AP Photo/Uriel Sinai, Pool

The leaders of the Free Gaza Movement confirmed on Monday that they have decided to send another boat to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza, after an Israeli raid on the first flotilla resulted in at least nine deaths and sparked worldwide condemnation.

Mary Hughes, an organizer of the Free Gaza movement, told Need to Know in a telephone interview from Cyprus that the boat, the Rachel Corrie, is currently somewhere between Malta and Greece, and could reach the waters along Gaza’s coast within the next several days.

“This morning we made a tentative decision that we’re going to send the Rachel Corrie alone, and it already is in the Mediterranean,” Hughes said. “We do know that the Turks definitely are interested in sending more boats, but they’re not able to get that together quickly enough.”

Hughes said pro-Palestinian organizations from around the world had contacted Free Gaza and the Turkish organization, IHH, wanting to organize their own flotillas to continue to challenge the Israeli blockade.

“Every time Israel does something like this they only bring bad publicity to themselves, and they also make more people around the world aware that this action is even happening,” Hughes said.

The Rachel Corrie was held back from the initial flotilla along with two other boats because of mechanical difficulties, Hughes said. The others remain disabled, but the Rachel Corrie has been cleared to sail for Gaza, and could reach its destination in several days.

The boat is currently only carrying a small crew of 10 or 11, Hughes said, and the organization has been deliberately vague about its precise location in order to prevent sabotage. But organizers hope to be able to send Hedy Epstein, the Holocaust survivor who was initially set to sail with the first flotilla, to Gaza on the Rachel Corrie.

Israel earned worldwide condemnation when it raided the boats in the first flotilla to prevent them from breaking the Gaza blockade, resulting in the deaths of at least nine pro-Palestinian activists. Israel has imposed a crippling blockade of the region since 2006, when Hamas took control in local elections.

The United Nations Security Council issued a statement Monday that condemned the raid and called for a “prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation.”

Hughes said she wasn’t sure how Israel would react to the organization’s next attempt to break the Gaza blockade, but speculated that the Israeli Navy might be more cautious given international reaction to the first incident.

“We decided that it was important for Rachel Corrie to continue, and our hope is that Israel will allow the boat to reach Gaza,” Hughes said. “They say they won’t, but they always say that. But they also know that the world is watching.”

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