Israel Releases Gaza Flotilla Activists, Signals Ease of Blockade

Protests followed the Israeli navy's raid of the humanitarian aid ship convoy bound for Gaza. Photo by Zion.

Israeli authorities have begun releasing the activists they arrested on May 31 during a raid of the aid ship convoy that attempted to defy Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip, news agencies report.

Approximately 120 of the more than 600 activists on board the flotilla has been transported by bus from Israel to Gaza, BBC says. The remaining activists, who are being held at a detention camp in the coastal town of Ashdod, are expected to be deported June 3 and June 4.

Israel has begun releasing the first of hundreds of foreign activists seized on board an aid flotilla trying to break its blockade of Gaza.

Israel’s navy attacked the six-ship international flotilla on Monday morning as it approached Gaza territorial waters. At least 10 people were reportedly killed in the incident, which earned strong condemnation from members of the international community.

Israel and Egypt indicated they would temporarily ease their blockade of the Gaza Strip following intense international pressure, The Associated Press reports. Egypt, which is Israel’s strongest ally on the imposition of the blockade, announced it will allow humanitarian aid to be delivered through its border to Gaza for one year. Israel said it is engaged in talks with the international community on how to expand the number of goods that enter Gaza.

The United Nations Security Council met on May 31 to discuss Israel’s attack on the aid ship convoy. The majority of members sought an investigation into the attack. U.S. President Barack Obama said June 1 that he supports an independent investigation on the raid, the Jerusalem Post reports. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged for restraint on all parties involved in the flotilla incident. Clinton added that the incident highlights the need to come up with a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and Gaza, Voice of America says.

In Los Angeles, Calif., more than a thousand people demonstrated in front of Turkey’s consulate in the city to defend Israel’s action against the flotilla. The activists, who were mostly members of StandWithUs among other groups, said the ship raided by Israeli troops was carrying weapons for the Hamas government.

“We’re very concerned about Hamas and weapons coming to Hamas,” Roz Rothstein, chief executive of StandWithUs, told the Los Angeles Times. “What you saw was Israel trying to protect its citizens.”

About the author

  • Ivy mungcal 400x400

    Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.