Canadian boat forced back to shore after attempt to sail for Gaza - report and pictures

The Canadian Boat to Gaza, the “Tahrir,” attempted to set sail for the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip today from the port of Agios Nikolaos, on the Greek island of Crete, but was quickly intercepted and boarded by the Greek Coast Guard. Despite nonviolent resistance, the Greek Coast Guard took control of the boat and it was towed back to port.

In a 4 July statement (reproduced in full below), Canadian Boat to Gaza declared, “With the support of Greek civil society and people from all around the world the Tahrir is casting off from Greece today.” The statement added:

“The Tahrir is leaving port in Crete, and we are breaking through Israel’s Gaza blockade which now extends to Greek ports,” said David Heap from aboard the Tahrir. ”Israel’s expansion of the Gaza blockade to Greece is just the latest example of how the blockade of Gaza is about attacking freedom, not increasing security.”

It also asserted that Greek authorities were breaching human rights and maritime law by detaining the ship. The Tahrir left port at approximately 6PM local time according to the time stamp on tweets from the boat’s official account and the journalist Jim Rankin who is aboard

Sources told the Guardian that activists in kayaks attempted to protect the Tahrir from Coast Guard interception:

But a short time later passengers reported that the Tahrir was being approached by speed boats and was boarded.

The French language Twitter account for the Canadian boat tweeted:

Translation: “The boat will be taken to a different port from the one which it departed from, but we do not yet know which.”

Damage to the “Tahrir”

Organizers report that their boat has been damaged.

Full statement from Canadian Boat to Gaza

The Canadian Boat to Gaza (CBG), the Tahrir, to set sail today as part of Freedom Flotilla II

Agios Nikolaos, Greece - With the support of Greek civil society and people from all around the world the Tahrir is casting off from Greece today.   “The Tahrir is leaving port in Crete, and we are breaking through Israel’s Gaza blockade which now extends to Greek ports,” said David Heap from aboard the Tahrir. ”Israel’s expansion of the Gaza blockade to Greece is just the latest example of how the blockade of Gaza is about attacking freedom, not increasing security.”

Article 13.2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to leave any country”. Preventing flotilla ships from leaving Greek ports is a clear violation of this human right.

“Greece has no right to detain foreign-flagged ships in its ports other than for purposes of assuring seaworthiness via timely inspection. And they cannot interfere with ‘innocent passage’ through their territorial waters, and this passage is definitely innocent,” said Richard Falk, American professor of international law and an appointee to two United Nations positions on the Palestinian territories. 

“Greece’s position is disturbing but this should not divert our attention from Israel and its illegal and inhumane blockade of Gaza. Israel is the source of the problem and it will be held accountable by the international community – sooner or later,” said Sandra Ruch, from the Tahrir steering committee. 

Support actions have been and continue to be held at Greek consulates all over Canada (as well as in cities all over the world) calling on the Greek government to end its support of the Israeli blockade of Gaza and immediately lift the blockade it is imposing on the Flotilla boats from Greece’s ports. 

The Canadian Boat to Gaza has sent letter to all Greek MPs asking them to let the flotilla boats go: http://www.tahrir.ca/content/letter-members-greek-parliament 

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These people do not represent the majority of Canadians and do not create our foreign policy.