A flotilla slated to sail to Gaza with the goal of breaking the Israeli naval blockade on the Hamas-controlled region has been abandoned following technical setbacks and diplomatic hurdles.
On Thursday, flotilla organizers decided to send home most of the activists who were hoping to sail from Athens. Approximately 300 people, mostly from North America and Europe, have been in Greece for nearly two weeks. They tried to fight a Greek ban issued last Friday which prohibited any ships from setting sail to Gaza, but found little success.
The remaining activists in Greece are working to get their boats released from authorities, according to flotilla organizer Huwaida Arraf. "We had planned on launching Freedom Flotilla 2 with a certain time frame and weren't able to do it within the time frame, so a lot of people are going home and we are strategizing and planning," Arraf said.
Last year's Freedom Flotilla led to the death of nine activists on the Mavi Marmara boat, which is owned by the Turkish group IHH, after activists incited a violent confrontation with Israeli commandos. Israel was surprised by the level of violence it encountered and conducted an investigation into the raid, clearing its commandos of blame. The country invested significant time and resources to prevent another flotilla-related disaster and launched a successful diplomatic campaign to stop the second flotilla from sailing.
The United Nations, European Union, United States, Britain, Canada, France, Greece, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Middle East Quartet all discouraged the flotilla from sailing, noting that there are established legal channels for which aid to Gaza can be delivered.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last month that the flotilla is not "useful or helpful or productive to the people of Gaza." "The United States is a very generous donor to the Palestinian people who are unfortunately the victims of the decisions made over the past years by Hamas," she added.
Around the same time the second flotilla turned into a fiasco, activists in an "aerial flotilla" began arriving into Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport declaring their destination is Palestine. On Friday, police diverted two passenger aircrafts that landed, detaining at least 60 activists for questioning. Six activists were arrested after causing a disturbance in the arrival areas of a terminal. "Every country has the basic right to prevent the infiltration of provocateurs into its territory," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday.