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GREECE

‘We won’t give up – we will return’: Mankell

Swedish bestselling crime author Henning Mankell slammed Greece for blocking the aid flotilla to Gaza as some of Sweden's pro-Palestinian activists returned home on Thursday.

'We won't give up - we will return': Mankell

“That we were not able to leave (for Gaza) has to do with the fact that the

Greek government has sold its soul for a silver coin,” the 63-year-old writer, who was taking part in the flotilla, told reporters at the airport in Sweden’s second-largest city Gothenburg.

Greece, he was quoted by the TT news agency as saying, “has given in to

Israeli threats, to American threats and didn’t let us leave, which is of

course a scandal.”

“But we will come back. We won’t give up,” he added.

The author of the popular Kurt Wallander detective series had already returned from Greece, but was at the airport to welcome his fellow activists from Ship to Gaza’s Swedish branch.

Mankell, whose books have sold more than 25 million copies worldwide and

have been adapted to film and television, was on board a vessel seized by the Israeli army last year.

This year, Greece thwarted the hopes of a 10-boat flotilla aiming to reach Gaza by imposing a ban on any ships setting sail from Greece in an attempt to run the Israeli blockade on the Palestinian territory.

Officials in Athens say they imposed the ban for the “safety” of the activists on board in the wake of last year’s bloody showdown when Israeli commandos raided a six-ship flotilla in a confrontation that left nine Turkish activists dead.

More than 300 activists from 22 countries had signed up to participate in this year’s flotilla, among them dozens of middle-aged and elderly Americans and Europeans.

Israel has made no secret of its determination to prevent the Freedom Flotilla II from reaching Gaza, which has been under a blockade since 2006 after militants there snatched an Israeli soldier who is still being held at a secret location.

Earlier this summer the Swedish Ship to Gaza group reported damage to their boat Juliano, while berthed in Piraeus harbour in Greece.

The Israeli government later rejected the claims of the Swedish Ship to Gaza movement that “foreign agents” had sabotaged their boat, calling it a ‘James Bond-esque’ insinuation, with no bearing on reality.

On Wednesday, Juliano finally set sail from its berth in the Greek harbour of Piraeus – not towards Gaza, but to Palea Fokea, a small coastal town south of Athens.

According to Ship to Gaza Sweden, Juliano – along with those activists that have chosen to stay – will now wait in a mediterranean port for the rest of the flotilla to be released.

Those that have returned home are all ready to head out again and start the journey towards Gaza if the opportunity will arise, according to a Ship to Gaza statement.

“No blockade in the history of mankind has survived forever…. No people

can accept oppression. Sooner or later, Israel will experience the same thing that happened to the South African apartheid system,” Mankell said, according to AFP..

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ISRAEL

Israel intercepts Swedish Gaza-bound activist boat

The Israeli navy intercepted a Swedish-flagged activist boat bent on breaching its more than decade-long blockade of Gaza, the second in less than a week, the military said on Saturday.

Israel intercepts Swedish Gaza-bound activist boat
Photo: TT

“The ship was monitored and was intercepted in accordance with international law,” the military said in a statement, before the vessel, named Freedom for Gaza and carrying 12 people, was taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod.

“The (military) clarified to the ship’s passengers that they are violating the legal naval blockade and that any humanitarian merchandise can be transferred to Gaza through the Port of Ashdod,” the statement said.

The people on board were taken for “further inquiry.”

The organisers of the flotilla said the boat, which was carrying medical supplies, was intercepted in international waters.

“The demands of Ship to Gaza are that the ship with its crew and cargo will be returned to the site of the boarding, and that they will be allowed to go in peace through international and Palestinian waters in accordance to international law,” they said in a statement.

“This is a demand that the eleven years-long illegal and destructive blockade on Gaza will be lifted at last.”

Freedom was the second boat of the “Freedom Flotilla” to be intercepted en route to “break the blockade” on Gaza, organisers said.

Four boats left from Scandinavia in mid-May and stopped in some 28 ports along the way, with two remaining behind after a recent stop in the Italian port of Palermo.

On Sunday, the Israeli navy intercepted a Norwegian-flagged activist boat that was part of the flotilla.

Israel has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in Gaza since 2008 and says the blockade is necessary to keep them from obtaining weapons or materials that could be used for military purposes.

UN officials have called for the blockade to be lifted, citing deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian enclave run by Islamist movement Hamas where 80 percent of the two million population are dependent on aid.

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