Saturday, 5 June 2010

Californian-born Free Gaza group to continue aid missions despite deadly Israeli raid

They were well-to-do, liberal California residents who bonded over the plight of Gaza's Palestinians.

Four years after forming the Free Gaza movement, a handful of American and Australian core members remain bent on breaching Israel's military blockade of the narrow coastal strip, despite the bloody Israeli raid that killed nine activists on an aid flotilla that the group helped organize.

Another Free Gaza-sponsored aid ship set sail Friday from Cyprus with a Nobel Peace laureate among its 11 pro-Palestinian activists and thousands of tons of aid on board.

Spokeswoman and founding member Greta Berlin, 69, said Cyprus-based Free Gaza is assembling another convoy to sail in the early fall. "We can do things that the Palestinians can't. We can stand up to the Israeli soldiers," she told The Associated Press.

Free Gaza organized the latest Gaza mission, carrying 10,000 tons of aid including building materials and medical supplies, in what Berlin described as a "loose coalition" with five other organizations.

Berlin said she does not condone the violence used by activists on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara to try to repel Israeli commandos in the Monday raid that triggered the international crisis.

"I would not have reacted the way they did," Berlin said. "I don't justify their actions, but I completely understand them."

She dismissed as "character assassination" Israeli allegations that the Mavi Marmara's Turkish owners, the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedom and Humanitarian Relief, is linked to terrorism. More

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