New Gaza Aid Flotilla Attempts to Break Israeli Siege
17:09 GMT 28.11.2023 (Updated: 09:24 GMT 05.12.2023)
The US has backed Israel to the hilt in its latest conflict with the occupied Palestinian population, with arms supplies and direct support from its armed forces. Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the women's peace campaign Code Pink, said Washington only paid lip-service to the Middle East peace process.
A veteran US peace campaigner has told of the latest attempt by citizens to break the Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip.
The four-day ceasefire
between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement, brokered by Qatar, was extended for two more days on Monday.
The death toll in the tiny Palestinian enclave after almost two months of Israeli bombing and ground incursions has reached 16,000, according to the Palestinian Authority
, with 35,000 wounded and 6,000 still missing under the rubble. Gaza's 2.3 million inhabitants have been subjected to a total siege by Israel, which has cut off supplies of electricity, running water, food, fuel and medicine.
Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin
that media reports of a flotilla of 1,000 small craft heading from Turkiye to Gaza were exaggerated.
"I wish there were a thousand boats ready to try to break the siege," Benjamin said, explaining that she had just returned from a meeting in Istanbul of a new group called the International Campaign to Save Gaza. "It includes people who have been involved in these Freedom Flotillas for years, both from Europe, the United States, as well as the Mavi Marmara people."
The Turkish passenger ship MV Mavi Marmara
was part of the original Gaza Freedom Flotilla in May 2010 which attempted to deliver aid to the strip, 16 months after Israel's Operation Cast Lead bombing and ground invasion. Israeli commandos on helicopters forcibly boarded the vessel and others, shooting dead nine people on board and fatally wounding a tenth.
"There is now a Mavi Marmara Foundation run by the sons of some of the people who were murdered on that ship, and they're part of this coalition," Benjamin explained. "The idea is to have two large cargo ships and then some passenger ships. And we're even talking about maybe a women's boat."
She said the new flotilla would set sail as soon as the organizers could raise enough funds, which she expected to take one or two months.
The aim of the voyage would be not only to deliver large quantities of humanitarian aid, but also to show that "Israel should not be allowed to control Gaza by land, by air and by sea."
The peace activist lamented that US leaders were eager to support Israel in any conflict with its neighbors while only paying lip-service to the peace process with Palestine.
"Our politicians keep talking about 'two-state solution'," Benjamin said. But "Not only do they allow for Israel to continue with the constant settlements that make the land unavailable in the West Bank, but also they refuse to have Gaza have any control or any of this infrastructure... that would be absolutely critical for any kind of state to exist."
21 November 2023, 01:43 GMT
Pretext for War With Iran
Republican Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton
has blamed Iran
for the October 7 raid into southern Israel by the armed wing of Hamas and other groups, along with a spate of guerrilla attacks on US military forces in Iraq and illegally occupying parts of north-west and southern Syria. Cotton has demanded President Joe Biden launch a bombing campaign against the regional power which controls access to the oil-rich Persian Gulf.
The Code Pink founder said those comments reflected "widespread agreement among Republicans" which leads to "all kinds of crazy positions."
"You have to, one, question why are the US soldiers still there and shouldn't we have them returned to the United States and not be this aggressive force around the world," Benjamin pointed out. "And second, the idea that you could possibly bomb Iran and bomb Iran's civilians, and not create a whole wild catastrophe in the region, is outrageous."
The USS Eisenhower aircraft carrier Strike group entered the Persian Gulf on Monday, further escalating tensions in the region.
"They've always wanted to go after Iran for decades," she added. "And this is one more pretext that they hope would be enough to push the US military to get involved in Iran."
20 November 2023, 15:31 GMT
Another unexpected escalation in the conflict occurred on November 19, when helicopter-borne Yemeni Republican Guard commandoes seized the Israeli-owned vehicle carrier ship Galaxy Leader in the Red Sea.
The huge 49,000-ton ship, which sails under the flag of the Bahamas, had been chartered by Japanese firm Nippon Yusen, but was owned by Ray Car Carriers based in the Isle of Man — a British Crown Dependency and tax haven — which is itself a subsidiary of Ray Shipping, owned by Israeli tycoon Abraham Ungar.
The US Department of Defence announced on Monday that the US Navy destroyer USS Mason had foiled a second Yemeni attempt to commandeer a ship, this time the tanker Central Park. But that report was swiftly corrected to say the would-be hijackers were in fact five modern-day pirates from Somalia in a small boat, who were captured by the US warship.
Yemen's Supreme Political Council government, led by the Ansarallah movement and the dominant Houthi clan, had previously launched a series of indigenously-produced cruise missiles and drones at Israel — some of which were intercepted by US Navy ships
— and has shot down a US MQ-9 Reaper armed drone near its coast.
The peace campaigner said she understood the Yemeni's anger at Israel, but could not condone their actions.
"In terms of motivations, I think there are definitely Houthis who are very upset about what's happening in Palestine and want to show their support by these acts of piracy," Benjamin said. "But I don't think they are helping. And I think they could really lead to a wider regional conflict."
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