A NUMBER of Palestinian activists yesterday set off in two boats on a sea journey from Gaza towards the naval limits set by Israel, to protest against the regime’s crippling siege of the coastal enclave. Earlier, Israeli warplanes had carried out airstrikes on bases belonging to Palestinian resistance movements Hamas and Islamic Jihad inside Gaza, following mortar fire from the enclave earlier in the day.
Israel’s military said that a barrage of 25 mortar shells had been fired from the Gaza Strip towards the south of the Israeli-occupied territories. The mortar attacks, the largest single barrage fired since the 2014 Gaza war, came a day after Israeli tank fire killed a young Palestinian man and injured another in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. No casualties were reported from the mortar attack.
In all, Israel launched five airstrikes at locations in the central and southern Gaza Strip, causing serious damage and fire. United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, on Tuesday called on the Palestinians and Israel to exercise restraint. Mladenov, however, said he was ‘deeply concerned’ by what he called ‘the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Palestinian militants from Gaza towards communities in southern Israel’.
He did not mention anything about the Israeli strikes at Gaza that killed four Palestinians since Sunday or the 116 Palestinians killed and 13,000 injured by Israeli gunfire since March 30 without any Palestinian response. The UN official said the attacks by the Palestinians ‘are unacceptable and undermine the serious efforts by the international community to improve the situation in Gaza.’ There are no such ‘serious efforts’.
He called on all parties to ‘exercise restraint’, knowing that Israel acts without any restraint.
On Tuesday morning, Palestinians gathered at the Gaza City harbour as the boats set sail to break the 11-year siege. Among the approximately 30 people aboard were protesters wounded in weeks-long demonstrations along the fence that separates Gaza from the Israeli-occupied territories.
In a press conference held at the Gaza City port, the organiser of the plan, Salah Abd al-Ati said, ‘Gaza has become the largest isolated prison in the world and it does not receive its minimal rights because of Israel’s blockade.’
The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli siege since June 2007. The blockade has caused a decline in the standards of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty.
The Israeli regime denies about 1.8 million people in Gaza their basic rights, such as freedom of movement, jobs with proper wages, as well as adequate healthcare and education.
The journey also marked the anniversary of the May 2010 attack by Israeli commandos on an aid flotilla led by the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara. Nine people, eight of them Turks, were killed in the attack. In fact, the journey continues the struggle of the six-week rallies at the Gaza fence, ‘The Great March of Return’, which demanded the right to return for those driven out of their homeland. During this six weeks, Israeli forces killed 116 unarmed Palestinian protesters and injured 13,000 more. The blockade busters do not expect to get treated any differently from the blockade busters of the Mavi Marmara.
Workers and their trade unions in Europe and the US must give every support to the people of occupied Palestine. They must impose a total blockade on Israeli products and take action against the Trump and May regimes in the US and the UK. The UK trade unions must bring down the May government and bring in a workers government that will recognise the state of Palestine, and take action to ensure that it is successfully established and maintained.