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Two women’s boats set sail for Gaza in effort to break blockade

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Two vessels with all-female crews set sail for Gaza from Spain on Wednesday in an attempt to break the nine-year Israeli blockade on the coastal Mediterranean strip. The “Women’s Boat to Gaza” is the fourth of its kind, captained by women-only, with 30 female activists and high-ranking officials aboard the Arabic-named Zaytouna (“Olive”) and the Amal (“hope”)

The organization said in a statement the boats are on a course to pierce Israel’s maritime control over Gaza’s borders, and in doing so, raise awareness of conditions inside of the Strip.

“While our focus is on opposing the blockade against the Palestinian people of Gaza, we see this in the larger context of supporting the right to freedom of movement for all Palestinians,” the group said on their website. “The Occupation daily violates the rights of Palestinians to move freely around their country and to leave and return to their country, as guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Gaza is home to 1.8 million Palestinians, under siege since 2007. In the last decade, unemployment has soared to 42 percent, according to the World Bank. Gaza’s weak infrastructure already lacking basic services took a toll in the 2014 war, and of the funds promised to reconstruct, only half have been disbursed. 

Since 2014 Gaza’s southern crossing into Egypt has also mostly been shut down, with the exception of a few dozens of days of openings, leaving a majority of Gaza’s residents living in poverty reliant on aid parcels to survive. 

Notable passengers on the boat include Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead MacGuire from Northern Ireland, retired U.S. army colonel and State Department official Ann Wright, parliamentarian Marama Davidson from New Zealand’s Green Party, and playwright Naomi Wallace.

“We hope that people will put pressure on their governments to hold Israel accountable, to put sanctions on Israel for what it’s doing to the Palestinians and to tell them to lift the blockade,” Wright told the Middle East Eye before the ships left port in Barcelona two days ago.

“For us, as the women of the world, this fight is also important, it is important to show our rights and opportunities; to prove that we are able to send ships to the Gaza Strip; to show that we stand in solidarity with women and people in the area,” Palestinian-Spanish activist Jaldia Abubakra told Spanish RT.

In 2010 passengers aboard a boat in an aid flotilla charted toward the besieged Gaza Strip, the Mavi Marmara, were intercepted by Israeli commandos in an night-time raid while the boats were nearing the edge of international waters. The Israeli navy fired several rounds while commandeering the ship, killing 10 passengers including the husband of one of the sailors now aboard the Women’s Boat to Gaza, Çiğdem Topçuoğlu.

At the time Israeli officials claimed the ships were shuttling weapons. Ultimately, no such items were found stored. “Since no material aid is being provided, Israeli cannot claim the ships are bringing contraband,” the Women’s Boat to Gaza said.

The after effects of the raid disrupted relations between Israel and Turkey for six years. The two countries had a rapprochement earlier this year when they signed a memorandum of understanding. In the deal, Turkey agreed to absolve Israel of any civil or criminal penalties for the deaths of its citizens. Topçuoğlu came out against the agreement last spring. 

Mayor of Barcelona Ada Colau with member of the European Parliment Malin Bjork at the Women's Boat to Gaza send off in Barcelona, September 14, 2016. (Photo:Vyara Gylsen/Women's Boat to Gaza)

Mayor of Barcelona Ada Colau with member of the European Parliment Malin Bjork at the Women’s Boat to Gaza send off in Barcelona, September 14, 2016. (Photo:Vyara Gylsen/Women’s Boat to Gaza)

The two-boat flotilla left Barcelona two days ago with a sendoff from the city’s mayor. “Barcelona wants to continue to exercise the Mediterranean leadership for peace and human rights,” said a letter to the government of Israel from the Barcelona City Council.

The ships are due to arrive in Gaza during the first week of October. 

Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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28 Responses

  1. Boomer on September 16, 2016, 8:03 pm

    Bless them. May no harm come to them.

  2. Kay24 on September 16, 2016, 9:53 pm

    They are so brave, especially after the last flotilla from Turkey ended in murders, and Israeli commandos attacking the boats. I hope they get all the publicity they deserve, and that they will all be safe. I also hope there are independent observers close by to watch them closely, so that the predictable reaction from the occupier will be observed and maybe video taped.

    The last time the Turkish boats were attacked, all videos and cameras were taken away, I guess the attackers could not risk the world seeing first hand, their violence.

    • inbound39 on September 18, 2016, 3:44 am

      Turkey should arrange one of its warships to patrol the area with photographers on board to observe any wrongdoing by Israeli water pollution ships.

  3. talknic on September 17, 2016, 1:19 am


  4. Marnie on September 17, 2016, 2:36 am

    May these ships reach their destination safely and their crews unmolested by the israeli pirates and plunderers. God bless these women, and keep them safe. They should be honored by all. God speed Zaytouna and Amal. Ms. Ann Wright – make your testimony heard by all.

  5. lonely rico on September 17, 2016, 4:50 am

    Bravo to these courageous women.

    From e-mail received September 16, 2016

    Due to technical problems, the Women’s Boat to Gaza (WBG) Amal-Hope returned to Barcelona and is now docked at a mooring in the Barcelona area. Its sister ship Zaytouna-Oliva was temporarily delayed by the port authorities

    Once an assessment of the Amal-Hope’s technical problems is complete WBG leadership will assess the prospects of continuing the journey directly to the final European port of call, Messina, Italy.

    To find and support other campaigns that are part of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, please see:

    • John O on September 17, 2016, 9:10 am

      Strange how these boats always seem to develop a mysterious technical problem just before or after leaving port.

      • Kay24 on September 17, 2016, 9:34 am

        You have a point. If I remember correctly, this was the same story with a previous attempt.
        Israeli agents are good at tampering, meddling, false flags, and assassinations.

      • Kay24 on September 17, 2016, 10:09 am

        Next time they had better keep those boats under heavy security, and keep it a big secret, like Israel does with it’s nukes!

      • Cazador on September 17, 2016, 10:47 am

        It has happened before, as the Israel’s arms are very long and numerous. What is it to the Mossad to organize trouble? NOTHING, REALLY!

      • echinococcus on September 17, 2016, 5:36 pm

        Considering the means the Zionists have and the degree to which they have infiltrated both Western governments and Palestinian solidarity organizations, no secrecy is possible and the only way to protect boats from sabotage would involve armed confrontation.

  6. ritzl on September 17, 2016, 5:17 pm


  7. ritzl on September 17, 2016, 5:22 pm

    Is there a maritime tracker/ship locator site where peeps can watch their progress in real time?

    I only ask because when ships get renamed the trackers tend to use the former name on their sites.

  8. inbound39 on September 18, 2016, 3:41 am

    All the best to all aboard and wish you all a safe journey and more so a safe return.

  9. Greta on September 18, 2016, 5:58 am

    I just wanted to add some comments regarding this article, for both clarity and historical accuracy. This voyage is the l7th attempt to sail into Gaza, not the 4th. The Free Gaza movement, the founder and organizer of most of these voyages actually sailed into Gaza successfully five times in 2008 setting a precedent that Israel has no right to stop us.

    We have also had the Jewish Boat to Gaza, the Irish Boat to Gaza, the Canadian Boat to Gaza, the Marianne, the Estelle and the Spirit of Humanity. All of these boats have been violently stopped by Israeli commandoes, our crews and passengers kidnapped and thrown into detention and most of these boats have never been returned to any of the initiatives.

    We made a promise that first successful trip on August 23, 2008… that we would continue to return. Eight years later, 26 boats later and 17 trips later, we are still doing out best to fulfill that promise.

    As far as the boat, Amal, being sabotaged, the Israelis have sabotaged them before and actually brag about it. So it’s entirely possible, even with security, that a small boat like this could be sabotaged.

  10. Ossinev on September 20, 2016, 7:43 am

    I suspect that there has not been any “sabotaging” of the boats by the JSILis as this would spoil the opportunity of demonstrating to the world the prowess of their brave “commandos” a la Marmara absailing down from their helicopters and courageously taking on these vicious terrorist women. After all they can`t take on the likes of Hezbollah any more with or without battle standard reinforced underpants and it is becoming a little bit boring killing the odd Palestinian teenager so the poor dears have to get their fun somewhere somehow.

  11. DaBakr on September 20, 2016, 12:31 pm


    While I sure your post was intended as simple support for the women in their two boats you come off sounding like a complete fool and surely add someone who has never been in battle.
    That the IDF treats Hezbollah as the serious and well trained force that it has become(thanks to billions of military aid dollars from Iran and Russia) is no different then the views of Iran or hezbollah commanders and fighters who use the IDF as the gold standard in terms of command and control as well as weapons deployment. Bragging like a child about who’s scared of who is a ignorant child’s game.

    Also, getting a small sailboat into Gaza is not particularly hard or that unusual. Accept when you whining for as much media attention as one can get in the exact hopes of stirring up some type of storm….. As that you be a far more preferable outcome then some boring old meet the press at the dock carp.

    • annie on September 21, 2016, 2:28 pm

      the views of Iran or hezbollah commanders and fighters who use the IDF as the gold standard in terms of command and control

      where do you come up w/this crap?

    • Mooser on September 21, 2016, 2:37 pm

      “and surely add someone who has never been in battle.”

      And now Dabakr bar Kochba will tell us how he beat the Romans.

  12. Kathleen on September 21, 2016, 12:32 am

    Hope and pray it is a peaceful trip, We know on their end it will be, Bet Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell and the rest of the MSNBC host will be silent on this action,

    Was glad to see them cover the North Dakota “Water is life” protest etc, Certainly will not be the case in this situation, Not brave enough,

  13. genesto on September 23, 2016, 5:57 pm

    While I am always hesitant to criticize the heartfelt and determined efforts of others in the movement to bring justice to the Palestinian people, I fail to see how the practically non-existent chances of any flotilla reaching Gaza, or of even raising a peep in the international press, justifies the time and expense involved. I was part of the 2010 Freedom Flotilla which, because of its scale and the murder of the 10 Turks aboard the Mavi,seriously questioned the prevailing misconception at the time, at least in the Western world, that Israel was the eternal victim of the Palestinians’ violence against them. Since then, however, all that’s happened with the flotillas that have followed is relatively quiet seizures of the vessels, a short period of detainment of the passengers, and loss of anything of value to the captors, particularly the vessels.

    Would someone please enlighten me as to how this advances the cause? I truly want to believe that there is real benefit to these continuing, but seemingly futile, efforts.

    • annie on September 28, 2016, 5:00 am

      it’s important to document voices. each step , each “time and expense”. the world has not forgotten gaza.

  14. lonely rico on September 28, 2016, 3:45 am

    September 27, 2016

    Messina, Italy:  This morning at 9:50 am, women representing 13 countries spanning five continents began their journey on Zaytouna-Oliva to the shores of Gaza, which has been under blockade since 2007. On board are a Nobel Peace Laureate, three parliamentarians, a decorated US diplomat, journalists, an Olympic athlete, and a physician. A list of the women with their background can be found here
    When asked why they are going, the women gave a variety of responses. Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate from Ireland, notes that “theysay that ‘silence is golden’, but regarding the plight of Palestinians in Gaza the silence of the world, especially concerning their little children, shows a lack of moral and ethical leadership from the international community. Why has it lasted so long?”
    For two of the women, their countries’ own historical struggles for human rights played an important role in their decision to join the Women’s Boat to Gaza. Leigh-Ann Naidoo, an Olympic volleyball player from South Africa, feels that “South Africans understand the importance of international solidarity in fighting regimes that practice segregation.” Marama Davidson, a Maori Member of Parliament from New Zealand, carries with her a strong personal connection to Palestinian women in Gaza. “As an indigenous woman myself, I want to stand alongside the women of Gaza and to draw attention to the ongoing humanitarian crisis there.”
    The Amal-Hope II has been making final preparations to sail and is scheduled to depart from Messina soon. Both boats are expected to arrive in Gaza in early October.
    Yudit Ilany, an Israeli participant who has sailed with the Zaytouna-Oliva since Barcelona, said “The blockade of Gaza is a crime against humanity being committed in my name, and it is my duty to protest it in any way possible.”
    The Women’s Boat to Gaza is an initiative of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition composed of civil society organizations and campaigns from more than a dozen countries. For more information, visit

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