Third Gaza flotilla rides winds of change

Third Gaza flotilla rides winds of change
Feature: A third "freedom flotilla" is heading for Gaza to deliver aid and defy the Israeli blockade. Palestinians await to see if its fate will be different to those before.
3 min read
03 June, 2015
Israel's 2010 raid of a Gaza flotilla left nine activists dead [AFP]

The third "freedom flotilla" is on its way to Gaza and Palestinians in the besieged strip are praying for its success. 

Previous attempts to break the Israeli siege have ended in bloodshed, as happened in 2010 when Israeli commandos stormed a peace flotilla and killed nine unarmed activists.

A second flotilla was launched in 2011 but its progress faltered in Greece when the government banned ships leaving its ports for Gaza.

But the continued efforts to break the siege - that began in 2007 - have become a form of spiritual support to the Gazans and a sense of embarrassment to Israel. 

The stage is set

Hamas' election win in 2006 led to Israel imposing a strict blockade on Gaza which has led to a serious deterioration in all aspects of life - particularly health, education, and jobs.

According to the Gaza's ministry of health, there are 4,000 patients with medical referrals waiting for the borders to open to seek treatment. Many are in a critical condition.

Abdel Kareem Zaqqout, 17, was diagnosed with leukemia two and a half ago years ago and began a course of chemotherapy in Egypt.

"He is scheduled to travel to Egypt soon for another session but the borders are closed," his mother says. "His medicine is unavailable in Gaza, and is extremely expensive."

Abdel Kareem's father pointed out that his son needs the medicine every five days, and one tablet costs $300. He has tried to find it in Egypt, but to no avail.

According to Maher Aby Sabha, the director general of Gaza border crossings, said there were 2,500 students who should be attending universities and colleges abroad but are stuck in Gaza due to the siege.

     Hundreds of these students might lose their places at the universities or scholarships due to the closure of Gaza's borders.

Hundreds of these students might lose their places at the universities or scholarships due to the closure of Gaza's borders.

No exit

Fedaa al-Aaraj applied for a female leadership scholarship in Canada and became one of 20 accepted for the programme out of 1,600 applicants. She says she is the first Palestinian to apply for the scholarship and the first to be accepted.

Aaraj still needed a visa and with no Canadian office in Gaza had to go to Egypt. However, the closure of the Rafah border made the journey unlikely, and the 2014 Israeli attack on Gaza ended all hopes of Aaraj getting the visa.

She missed the deadline and was asked to reapply for the scholarship the following year.

"Of course I did not apply again, why should I? It will be the same story - I'll end up applying and being accepted, but to what end? The borders will still be sealed and the prison gates will not open," Fedaa says.

Jamal al-Khoudary, the chairman of the people's committee agaist the siege said: "Over the past nine years of the siege, the population in Gaza Strip has increased by 400,000. These people need houses, schools, hospitals, and services that we are unable to provide due to the siege."

Three Israeli campaigns against Gaza in that time have also destroyed houses, schools, hospitals and services, he adds.

During last year's assault, 17,200 houses were destroyed, 224 schools were partially damaged, and 475,000 people forced from their homes.

"The only solution to improve the life of the Gazans is to completely lift this illegal and immoral siege. Donors must also commit to alleviating the suffering of the residents."