Breaking the

Siege of Gaza


If you have enough courage you can go on a convoy or sail to Gaza. Even if you don’t go yourself you can contribute to the movement financially or in kind. 

The blockade constitutes what is considered by many an act of collective punishment, which constitutes a crime under international humanitarian law. The matter of ending the blockade has become crucial  now that Egypt is building an steel wall 30 meters deep to stop tunnel smuggling (Gaza, Gaza Tunnels).

The Free Gaza Movement

The Free Gaza Movement is an international coalition of human rights organisations and individuals intent on taking humanitarian aid to Gaza. It was the first organisation to sail two small boats into Gaza in August 2008. A further ship, ‘Dignity’, reached Gaza in October 2008, but then boats were intercepted by the Israeli navy or turned back.

In June 2009 ‘The Spirit of Humanity’ set sail from Gaza carrying, among others, the Nobel laureate


Mairead Maguire and former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney as well as Al Jazeera journalists. They were carrying medical supplies and construction equipment. The boat was intercepted, towed to the Israeli port of Ashdod and the crew deported from Israel. 

In May 2010 a flotilla of six ships, including the Mavi Marmara set sail. For the attack on the Mavi Marmara see History and Background.

‘It is a fact that it is ordinary people, activists, call them what you will who now take decisions to change events. Our politicians are too spineless, too cowardly, to take decisions to save lives. Why is this? ... Something has changed in the Middle East these past 24 hours - and the Israelis (given their extraordinarily stupid political response to the slaughter) don’t seem to have grasped what has happened. The world is tired of these outrages. Only the politicians are silent.’

Robert Fisk, The Independent, 1 June 2010.

The attack is not described in detail on this site as the facts are well known and readily available on the web. The ‘Report of the international fact-finding mission to investigate violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, resulting from the Israeli attacks on the flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian assistance’ issued on 27 Sept by the UN Human Rights Council


  1. -Moustafa Bayoumi, ed. The Attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and How it Changed the Course of the Israel-Palestine Conflict (OR Books, 2010.)

  2. -For the attack see:

concluded (contrary to Israeli propaganda) that there was no evidence that any gunfire was directed from the Mavi Marmara towards the boats of Israeli soldiers, whereas both live ammunition came from the helicopters while the soldiers were descending to the ship’s deck. Following an enquiry, in January 2011 the Israeli government issued a 300 page report putting forth a justification for the attack which stands in stark contrast to the UN Human Rights Council report.. Those who were witnesses utterly deny the Israeli account. For example Kevin Ovenden of Viva Palestina comments: ‘It is simply unfeasible to claim that, for example, the two men shot immediately to the left and right of me, were gunned down in some act of self-defence. They were shot from above. No Israeli commando was in sight of us when the bullets rang out.’ (See Palestine Solidarity website). The UN General Assembly Human Rights Council undertook a fact-finding mission resulting in a Report which concluded that ‘a series of violations of international law .... were committed by the Israeli forces’.

It is planned that a new flotilla will sail to Gaza in the third week of June 2011. It will consist of around 15 ships (whereas that in 2010 was only 6). The flotilla will carry construction materials, electric generators and desalination plant. An international planning meeting was held in Madrid in Feb. 2011 with representatives from 22 countries present. For further information click here. For the U.S. boat which will be part of the flotilla, ‘U.S. Boat to Gaza’, click here.

Viva Palestina

Viva Palestina is a British-based registered charity formed in January 2009. The British MP George Galloway has been the leading figure in the movement. Its aims are ‘provision from the UK of food, medicine and essential goods and services needed by the civilian population’ of the OPT and ‘highlighting the causes and results of wars with a view to achieving peace’. The movement has organised successive humanitarian aid convoys to break the siege of Gaza.
The first, going via Spain and North Africa, arrived in Gaza in March 2009, followed by a convoy of US activists in July 2009.

Leaving London on 06.12.09 with more than 110 vehicles the third convoy made its way across Europe, through Turkey and Syria, picking up more people and vehicles on the way, in particular from Turkey where 125 people including 10 MPs and 60 more vehicles joined it, until the convoy finally comprised over 500 people in 250 vehicles.

‘For the first time in 30 years the Turkish government permitted a political demonstration in historic Taksim Square, and it was to support Viva Palestina’s medical relief convoy to blockaded Gaza. A massive, enthusiastic crowd turned out in the pouring winter rain to hear George Galloway and Kevin Ovenden thank the Turkish people and government for supporting Viva Palestina’s third convoy to Gaza.

After leaving Taksim the convoy proceeded to Adapazari [Turkey] to overnight in a sports stadium. Although the convoy arrived about 2 a.m., the citizens of Adapazari were there and ready to help. Locals swarmed the vehicles and buses to carry ... the 200 convoy participants’ sleeping gear and baggage into the stadium.”

In Syria, a British volunteer reported, “We were greeted by the sound of music and cheering. At the border posts, a huge reception was waiting for us, with speeches, music, flowers and flag-waving customs officers.”

There were also many, many Palestinians from the Syrian refugee camps, whose welcome was overwhelming. They told us we were heroes, angels, and thanked us over and over again for helping Gaza. We could only tell them that it was our duty, our obligation, and an honour to do what we can to fight the occupation — what else can you say when you experience such hospitality from people who’ve been exiled from their homeland for more than 60 years? It was a humbling experience. ...

One 12-year-old girl said to me: “I’d like to come with you to my country, to see my land, but I’m not allowed. Thank you for going. It gives us the strength to carry on.”’

Ralph Loeffer, U.S. volunteer on the journey.

Quoted at

Copyright 1995-2010 Workers World’. Abbreviated

Flickr Commons; ISM Palestine

Viva Palestina convoy arrives in Gaza, 09.03.2009

But trouble a awaited. There is profound unrest below the surface in Egypt at present, many people wishing to support Gaza, while the government is afraid of the strength of the Muslim brotherhood (from which Hamas sprang) in their midst. When the convoy reached Aquaba in the south of Jordan, the Egyptian regime told them that they could only enter Egypt through the mediterranean port of Al-Arish and they thus had to return to Syria from whence a Turkish ship took them to Egypt. At Al-Arish the Egyptian authorities seized passports and police tried to seize trucks. Meanwhile the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received a warm welcome in Cairo on the anniversary of Operation Cast Lead. At one point frustration erupted into violence on the Gazan border as Palestinians threw stones at Egyptian border guards. Some members of the convey were assaulted and beaten by the 2,000 Egyptian riot police. Finally the majority of vehicles were allowed into Gaza on 6/7.01.10, but for a mere 30 hours for the goods to be delivered. Hundreds of thousands of Gazans lined the streets in welcome. Nothing could have made clearer to the world the antagonistic outlook of the present Egyptian government. As one member of the convey, John Hurson, wrote:

Reporting and Action by the

Powers that Be

One of the more remarkable aspects of this campaign is that the trials and tribulations of the third convoy were scarcely reported by the BBC and western media. It was a lead story on Al Jazeera and followed by media teams from all over the Arab world. It apparently takes an Israeli attack resulting in the deaths of activists for the Western media to take note.

‘Egypt have now openly admitted that they are under control of Israel/US’.

A further land convoy departed from the UK on 18 September 2010, travelling through Turkey to Syria. There they were joined by convoys from Morocco and Algeria and Doha; in total 147 vehicles with 380 people from 33 countries. After long negotiations with the Egyptian government it was given permission to sail to Egypt and on 21 October entered Gaza amid jubilant scenes. For further information click here.

‘There ... developed a sight which will remain with me for the rest of my life – with the frigate in the background, two gunboats, two landing craft and four high powered ribs spread out in a semi-circle speeding towards us at perhaps 35 knots, with their bow waves and wakes flashing in the sunshine. It was surreal, it was like an action movie, and entranced by the sight I had to remind myself this was actually happening – this overwhelming force for a 9.7 metre 40 yr. old boat, the majority of its Jewish occupants over 60 years old, with no weapons and a publicized policy of passive resistance.’

Glyn Secker, captain of the Irene

Jewish Boat to Gaza: Two Peoples One Future.

Jewish Boat

A separate initiative was the sailing of the Irene (the word means ‘peace’ in Greek) carrying entirely Jews sailing under a UK flag. The boat was intercepted, boarded, and the passengers man-handled, including the use of a taser (electric shock) weapon. The Israelis told the media that there had been no violence.

Wikipedia Commons

English-language Logo

of the Free Gaza Movement