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Mankell joins Swedish 'Ship to Gaza'

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11:27 CEST+02:00
The author Henning Mankell is among eleven Swedes on the Ship to Gaza - a flotilla of small ships heading to Gaza over the Mediterranean aiming to raise awareness and show solidarity for the Palestinian people.

"Our goals are threefold - humanitarian, political and for solidarity. Firstly we wish to contribute with necessities such as medicines and materials for reconstruction, secondly to raise political interest in the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza, and thirdly to show the people in Gaza that they are not alone," said Mikael Löfgren at Ship to Gaza Sweden to The Local on Thursday.

Mankell, the creator of the Wallander detective novels, is joined by among others, Ulf Carmesund, theologian and international secretary for the Christian Social Democrats, Swedish Green Party MP Mehmet Kaplan, Jewish artist and musician Dror Feiler, and religious history professor Mattias Gardell on the international Freedom Flotilla.

The eight vessel strong fleet of ships, carrying 500 passengers from around 50 different nations, reported to include 35 parliamentarians, are currently dispersed around various ports in the eastern Mediterranean.

"They are on their way from various ports. The aim is for all the ships to converge south of Cyprus and continue the journey together," Löfgren said.

The Israeli navy has vowed to enforced a 20 nautical mile exclusion zone but, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, has offered to deliver the activists' cargo to the Hamas-controlled territory, once it has been inspected.

The newspaper writes that a "forum of seven senior ministers" decided on Wednesday to enforce the blockade and thus prevent the flotilla from reaching its destination, warning that it would employ force if necessary.

Mikael Löfgren explained that the activists were aware of the Israeli government's warnings, while stressing that the Ship to Gaza project is a peaceful non-violent operation.

"We will not meet violence, with violence," Löfgren said forecasting that if all goes according to plan the flotilla is expected to approach Gaza sometime on Saturday afternoon.

Sweden's foreign minister Carl Bildt was asked by Social Democrat MP Helén Petersson on Tuesday what measures the Swedish government has taken to protect the Ship to Gaza initiative.

"I assume that the voyage to Gaza is carried out by peaceful means and that the Israeli authorities respond accordingly. The work to ease Gaza's isolation is not helped if this situation were to develop into a confrontation," Bildt said while underling that Sweden shares the EU's position to work to lift the blockade of Gaza.

Bildt added that the government has no opinion on the methods adopted by the activists, as long as Swedish law is respected.

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