The captain of “The Marianne,” one of the four civilian vessels carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, reported on Saturday that military planes and vessels had began following the four-ship flotilla.
Though the nationalities of neither the ships nor planes could be determined by the crew, the sightings raised fears of yet another military involvement against the human rights activists attempting to deliver aid to Gaza.
On May 31, 2010, the Mavi Marmara - a Turkish civilian vessel carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip - was bordered by Israeli paratroopers in international waters. The Israeli soldiers opened fire with live ammunition on those on the ship, killing nine activists on board with a tenth activist dying due to wounds later.
Following the attack on the Mavi Marmara and other vessels in the first Freedom Flotilla, there was an international outcry with an attempted second flotilla also having its humanitarian aid seized by the Israeli military.
The third flotilla, reportedly just a few days from making land in Gaza, plans to go directly from international waters to Gaza, having no direct interaction with Israel’s territory.
The third flotilla includes 50 activists, journalists, artists and political figures including Dr. Basel Ghattas, a member of the Israeli Knesset and Dr. Moncef Marzouki, the former President of Tunisia.
Members of the Spanish, Jordanian, Greek and Algerian parliaments are accompanied by European Parliament members aboard the ships, while many media outlets including Al Jazeera, Euronews and Russia Today are offering continuous coverage from aboard the ships.
The Freedom Flotilla III was organised by a team of international activists aiming to break the nine-year-long Israeli blockade of Gaza for the third time.