NEWS

Greek coast guard intercepts Canadian Gaza boat

Coast guard authorities on Monday afternoon stopped a Canadian boat – one of several vessels forming part of a flotilla aiming to break Israel?s Gaza Strip blockade – after it tried to set sail from Crete for the second time in three days. The move by the flotilla organizers came just a few hours after the government proposed undertaking the delivery of humanitarian aid on their behalf.

The vessel, dubbed the Tahrir after the Cairo square that became a center of protest against Egyptian authorities earlier this year, was carrying around 30 Canadians and several other foreign nationals.

The coast guard stopped the boat shortly after it left the port of Aghios Nikoloas, in northeastern Crete, without permission, and towed it back to port. Authorities have banned the flotilla?s boats from leaving Greek ports to head to Gaza, citing security concerns.

On Friday, a few hours before the Canadian vessel was stopped off Crete, Greek authorities blocked the Audacity of Hope, a US ship which was carrying American activists. The boat?s American captain, John Klusmire, was arrested and is today due to appear in court.

Over the weekend Prime Minister George Papandreou told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that Greece would deliver the aid in cooperation with the United Nations.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said yesterday that authorities would contact the activists to discuss the logistics of such a mission. Activists meanwhile expressed skepticism about a possible cooperation, saying they were intent on breaching Israel?s blockade of Gaza.