Peace boats sail from Cyprus to Gaza shores
International activists departed from Cyprus by boat on Friday in a bid to run an Israeli sea blockade on the Gaza Strip. The 44 activists sailed from the port of Larnaca in two wooden boats at 9:50 a.m. (0650 GMT). Hailing from 14 countries, they said they expected to reach the shores of Gaza, patrolled by the Israeli navy, on Saturday.
"It has been 41 years since any boat has travelled in those waters, and we plan to be the first," said U.S. citizen Paul Larudee, one of the organisers of the "Free Gaza" campaign.
According to Reuters, activists include an 81 year old Catholic nun, the sister in law of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and a member of the Greek parliament. They say they plan to deliver some aid to Palestinians in the Gaza strip, but that the main purpose is to highlight the living conditions of people suffering shortages of everything from food to fuel since an Israeli crackdown.
Cyprus could not legally stop the departure of the boats. A Cypriot official told Reuters there had been "soundings" by Israeli authorities on whether the vessels could be prevented from sailing from Cypriot shores. "Provided documentation was in order they could sail. That's the law and we cannot break it," the Cypriot source said.