The Women's Boat to Gaza, which has been sailing from Barcelona to Gaza for the past two weeks, is a peaceful civil society protest against the illegal and inhumane blockade of Gaza. The initiative aimed to bring a message of hope and solidarity to the people of Gaza.

Communication with the boat was lost this afternoon and the boat has been taken to the Ashdod Harbour, according to Israeli media sources.                                                                                                                                     

It is expected that the women activists will be deported to their mother countries after being forced to sign pledges to never return.

Swedish MEP, Malin Björk, who sailed on the boat for part of the journey to Gaza, comments: “The Women's Boat to Gaza is a peaceful mission that aims to break the illegal Israeli blockade. It is highly anticipated by the women in Gaza.”

“I strongly condemn the occupying Israeli forces for stopping our boat, Zaytouna-Oliva. I call for the safety and immediate release of all the delegates of the Women's Boat to Gaza.                                                                              

“The seizure of the Women's Boat reminds the international community of the illegal and inhumane blockade of Gaza. We will not give up in our work to end the blockade and to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in the Middle East, says Swedish MEP Malin Björk.

Previous boats attempting to reach Gaza have been met with extreme violence from Israeli authorities and there are concerns for the safety of the women who were on board the boat this evening.

Chair of the European Parliament's Delegation for relations with Palestine, Martina Anderson, also comments: “Israel has just paid Turkey 18 million euros in compensation for its violent attack on the Gaza Flotilla in 2010, when Israeli commandos boarded the boats and killed ten people.”

“The international community must act immediately to ensure the safety of everyone on board the Women’s Boat to Gaza, which is bringing a peaceful message of hope to Gaza.

“Israel’s illegal blockade has turned Gaza into an open-air prison for 1.8 million people, denying them even the most basic everyday items. The EU must demand that Israel end this inhumane blockade right now and comply with international law in all of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

Noble Peace Laureate, Mairead Maguire, who has been on board the boat to Gaza, commented in the lead-up to today's interception: “We see pictures of children building sand castles on the beaches of Gaza to welcome us. We pray for you and hope that you will continue believing in peace and freedom.”

Spanish MEP, Marina Albiol, adds: “We call on all governments, public officials and people of conscience to publicly support the right of unimpeded passage for peaceful civilian navigation, and the physical integrity of the crew and participants on board, and to support full freedom of movement for all peoples, in particular the Palestinians of Gaza.”

The women aboard the boat recorded messages in advance in case they would be detained by Israeli authorities and have launched a call to the international community to contact their governments asking for protection for the women.

Sources: Women's Boat to Gaza website, The Times of Israel, The Jerusalem Post


GUE/NGL Press Contact:

Nikki Sullings  +32 22 83 27 60 / +32 483 03 55 75

Gay Kavanagh +32 473 84 23 20

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