Greece stops Illinois protesters headed to Gaza

July 1, 2011

(photo courtesy of U.S. Boat for Gaza)
Greek Coast Guard members Friday intercept a boat whose 49 passengers included 3 Illinoisans.

The Greek Coast Guard on Friday intercepted a boat with Illinois protesters heading to the Gaza Strip. Greece reportedly announced it was banning vessels to Gaza from leaving Greek ports. The boat, called the Audacity of Hope, would have helped form a flotilla planned to challenge Israel’s sea blockade of Gaza.

Israel says the blockade aims to keep weapons from reaching Hamas, Gaza’s ruling party, branded terrorist by the United States and others.

Palestinians and their supporters say the blockade is illegal and collectively punishes Gaza’s 1.6 million residents.

The boat’s 49 passengers included Kathy Kelly and Max Suchan, both of Chicago, and Robert Naiman of Urbana.

Last year Israeli commandos stormed another pro-Palestinian flotilla heading to Gaza. The commandos killed nine Turkish activists, provoking international protests.