Greek coast guard stops third Gaza boat

By Renee Maltezou

The Greek coast guard intercepted a small French boat with Pro-Palestinian activists aboard on Thursday, the third flotilla ship to be prevented from sailing to Gaza to challenge an Israeli blockade.

Greece, just over a year after nine people were killed when Israeli marines stormed a pro-Palestinian flotilla, imposed a ban on all Gaza-bound ships saying it feared for the safety of the activists who are now trying to find a way to set sail.

The boat with about 10 activists aboard, including French politicians, an MEP and a journalist, sailed from Corsica.

Activists had said it was in international waters waiting to join the rest of the flotilla, now confined in Greek ports.

The «Dignity» was detected in the early morning near the southern Greek island of Crete as it was refuelling at sea and was towed to the port of Sitia for checks, the coastguard said.

"We are still checking their papers. We haven't spotted any problem so far. They have not disclosed their destination, maybe because they have not decided yet,» said a coastguard official in Crete, on condition of anonymity.

There were no arrests, activists and the coastguard said.

The 10-ship flotilla, with about 350 passengers, was supposed to take drugs, food and building material to Gaza by the end of June, but a priority was to challenge the blockade.

But the chances that they will reach their destination has faded due to the vigilance of the Greek coastguard which has intercepted three of their ships so far and is closely watching the other seven, moored in ports across Greece.

"We are still waiting. We know that the days are going by but we are waiting to see what will happen. So far, we can't move,» said Dimitris Plionis, one of the activists.