What is the story behind IHH’s decision to buy a ship?
As we all know the Palestinian people have been kept under embargo since 2006. Up until now there have been many attempts to break the embargo on land, through underground tunnels and via sea route. The latest one was the organization of a major overland convoy in early 2010. It managed to enter Gaza despite numerous difficulties. However, the situation of the Palestinian people has not improved despite all external aid during the four-year long embargo period. In fact it is deteriorating despite incremental increase in the amount of aid. Another aspect of the problem is the retrieval of the usurped rights. Gaza is under a merciless, unjust embargo. This embargo should somehow be condemned and the world should see that the embargo is not recognized. To this end we have managed to reach Gaza through different ways and we will continue to do so. We were forced to look for alternative ways to break the embargo after Egypt hardened its position against the Palestinian people following the latest overland convoy.
Each ship will carry 5,000 tonnes of relief supplies!
And that alternative is to reach Gaza via sea route. Gaza has a coast on the sea. There were previous attempts to reach Gaza in small boats and ships from Europe and Greece. We were inspired by these initiatives and started preparations to purchase ships. We are planning to purchase a passenger and two cargo ships with donations from the people of Turkey. The cargo ships will hopefully open an aid corridor from Turkey to Gaza every month. The question is can Gaza continue to live on external aid? At least more aid will have been delivered as compared to earlier aid shipments. You can only transfer several trailers load of aid overland, namely about 200-300 tonnes of supplies, and you have to overcome numerous hurdles. But five tonnes of relief supplies can be carried in one ship. Ships are much more functional in this regard. The campaign was launched last week. We are expecting extensive support from concerned and charitable people.
A question that was raised when the campaign was launched is whether there are adequate ports and infrastructure in Gaza.
There is a small port in Gaza. However, large ships cannot dock here. Israel has been preventing the Palestinians from using the port for the last 5-6 years and it was heavily damaged during the last Israeli offensive. The IHH Office in Gaza is administering the necessary works at the port. It is being enlarged to allow for docking of big ships.
Is there a possibility that Israel might harass ships sailing for Gaza or deny them entry to the port?
In the past, 6-7 ships went to Gaza. Israel posed certain hurdles to these ships and shot at some of them. Our flotilla will include 8-10 ships and there will be ships from Turkey and several other countries. We hope Israel will not strike such a large convoy. Even if Israel strikes, it will lose prestige before world countries. Therefore, we are not worried.
Will the ship to be purchased carry humanitarian aid only to Gaza or will it be used in other IHH aid campaigns?
We are purchasing the ships to meet urgent needs of Gaza and might donate them to the people of Gaza after the need for humanitarian aid has been met or in other words the embargo is removed so that they could use them to contact with the outer world. We might also sell the ships and donate the money to Gaza. Time will show.
Are there machines, tools and equipment that are needed to rebuild and develop Gaza among the supplies? Or will there be only consumption materials?
A number of supplies are needed to rebuild Gaza. More than 4,000 houses were destroyed in the last war. The debris still lies around. It should be cleared immediately. Therefore, we will primarily take cement and iron to Gaza. We are also planning to transfer a milk and yoghurt processing factory. Electric wheelchairs will be taken for the crippled. Unavailable and expensive medical equipment will be among the supplies. This time we will be mostly carrying fundamental materials needed to upgrade life standards, namely to rebuild and redevelop Gaza.
Egypt is constructing a 27-meter deep and at least that high huge steel barrier on the Rafah border, Gaza’s only outlet to the rest of the world. Even worse, it is planning to dig water canals beneath the barrier to prevent crossings. How will Gaza be affected?
Egypt is taking certain measures for its own security. Palestinians are a resistant nation. They have resisted numerous tricks, traps and treacheries for years and have taught us how to be resistant. We reckon Palestinians will find a way to overcome this barrier. Egypt believes it is doing what it should be doing. Gazan people will also do what they should do and we should also do what we are supposed to do, Allah willing.