Middle East News
Pro-Palestinians occupy Spanish embassy in Athens for second day
Jul 6, 2011, 10:34 GMT
Athens - A group of Spanish activists from an international flotilla banned by Greek officials from setting sail for the Gaza Strip continued to occupy their country's embassy in Athens for a second straight day Wednesday, embassy officials said.
Embassy officials said four activists were currently inside the embassy as part of a 'symbolic occupation,' while another 17 were gathered at the entrance outside.
The activists had draped a Palestinian flag from one of the embassy's balconies.
The group of 21 Spanish activists are from the Spanish boat Gernica, which has been docked on the southern Mediterranean island of Crete for the past few weeks, awaiting an opportunity to sail.
The Spanish activists insist they will continue to 'peacefully' occupy the premises of the embassy until their government asks Greek authorities to allow them to sail to Gaza.
Greek authorities have banned a 10-vessel flotilla, loaded with aid and carrying several hundred pro-Palestinian activists from 22 countries - including Greece, Canada, France, Spain and the United States - from sailing towards Gaza.
The flotilla also includes two cargo vessels carrying almost 3,000 tons of aid, medicine, a fully equipped ambulance and cement to Gaza.
The Greek coast guard has repeatedly intercepted many of the 10 ships and arrested a handful of activists in the past few days who have tried to set sail for Gaza.
The government, citing security concerns after a similar flotilla raided by Israeli forces last year left nine activists on a Turkish boat dead, has offered to deliver the humanitarian aid the activists want to take to Gaza.
Israel imposed its blockade on the Strip in 2006, after Palestinian militants launched a cross-border raid in which an Israeli soldier was snatched. The blockade was tightened a year later after the Islamist Hamas movement seized full control of the salient.
Although Israel has significantly eased the blockade, the naval embargo remains in force, as Israel tries to prevent weapons coming in form the sea. Exports from the enclave are still banned.
Activists taking part in the international flotilla say they will still try to leave Greek ports despite repeated delays that activists blame on Israeli sabotage.
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