EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Friday called for an immediate end to Israel’s Gaza blockade, as an aid flotilla prepared to set sail for the enclave despite the embargo.
“The continued policy of closure is unacceptable and politically counterproductive,” she said in a statement.
“We would like to reiterate the EU’s call for an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza.”
In spite of this appeal, the government of Cyprus has taken the extraordinary step of preventing members of the European parliament from joining the Freedom Flotilla.
Cypriot authorities prevented pro-Palestinian activists, including 30 MPs from nine European countries, from leaving the island yesterday to join a flotilla in international waters, which is on its way to blockaded Gaza.
In addition to issuing an edict banning ships headed for Gaza to set sail from the island’s ports, or dock on the island on their way back, the authorities yesterday forbade any small vessels from leaving Cyprus in case they were on their way to the flotilla of eight ships carrying around 700 peace activists, and 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid.
The government denied it bowed to pressure from Israel to put the ban in place.
The European Union guarantees the right of freedom of movement of its citizens within the territory of its member states. Cyprus has been a member of the EU since 2004.
A Tweet @freegazaorg said at about 11AM Eastern:
Twenty have left from Famaghusta, [Turkish controlled] Northern Cyprus, four German MPs, one Swedish MP, all the passengers from Challenger 1. Hedy [Epstein] not going.
The Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh said Saturday that if Israel behaved like pirates and attacked the international Freedom Flotilla carrying 10,000 tons of aid meant for Gaza, then the Palestinians will have won.
“The flotilla’s message is clear and it will reach the entire world,” Haniyeh said Saturday morning during a press conference held at the Gaza port where the ships were expected to dock.
“The meaning of the flotilla is that the entire world opposes the siege on the Gaza Strip, and if Israel behaves like pirates and sea-terrorists – we will win,” he added.