After having broken the Israeli blockade of Gaza earlier this week, two boats filled with activists have left the Gaza Strip for Cyprus. Several Palestinians who have previously been denied exit visas by Israel have joined international human rights workers on the journey.
Among the Palestinians leaving is Saed Mosleh, age 10, of Beit Hanoun, Gaza. Saed lost his leg due to an Israeli tank shell and is leaving Gaza with his father to seek medical treatment. Also on board is the Darwish family, who will finally be reunited with their relatives in Cyprus. “I can't believe we’re finally able to leave for medical treatment,” said Khaled Mosleh, Saed’s father. “This is a miracle of God.” Nine international human rights workers will remain in Gaza to do longer-term monitoring and accompaniment , and one, Dr. Bill Dienst of Omak, Washington, will attempt to cross over into Israel late Friday via the Erez crossing. The group states in their press release that their action, carrying boatloads of medicine and humanitarian supplies to Gaza, "forced the Israeli government to issue a fundamental policy change regarding their military and economic blockade of Gaza. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign affairs publicly announced that humanitarian and human rights missions to Gaza will no longer be stopped or threatened by Israel. With the end of the Israeli siege of Gaza, Palestinians should be free to exercise their rights without fear of being stopped or killed by the Israeli military." Yvonne Ridley, a journalist and member for the Free Gaza Movement, summed up her experience in Gaza by saying, “I missed the start of the Berlin Wall coming down by just a few days, but now I know how people felt when they tore down those first few bricks. This has been a huge victory of people over power.” Since the organizers of the Free Gaza Movement will not be entering Israeli territorial waters, and since they will request an inspection from both the Gaza Port Authority when they depart, and the Cypriot authorities upon their return, they expect no interference on part of the Israeli authorities when they leave Gaza. By Israel’s own admission, it has no authority to inspect the boats or the passengers when they leave Gaza.
The group has promised to return to Gaza with another delegation, and they have encouraged the United Nations, Arab League and international community to organize similar human rights and humanitarian efforts. The Free Gaza Movement says that they will continue to work to ensure that safe passage between Gaza and the outside world will remain free and open.