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Gaza freedom boat arrives in Liverpool this weekend to raise awareness of Israeli blockade

Freedom Flotilla will attempt to break sea blockade to deliver medicines and urgent supplies to besieged Palestinians

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s ‘Freedom Flotilla Coalition’s boat ‘Handala’ will arrive in Liverpool this weekend as part of its European tour to raise awareness of Israel’s ongoing land, air, and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip. The boat’s tour aims to draw particular attention to the conditions faced by children in Gaza, who make up more than half of its residents. The boat is named Handala after the famous cartoon image of a refugee Palestinian child.

The boat will arrive in Liverpool late on Sunday 2 July and the crew will meet journalists and residents on Monday. The crew includes Zohar Chamberlain Regev, an Israeli citizen who has been part of previous attempts to break the blockade of Gaza, and Musheir El Farra, a Gazan who lives in Sheffield and has lost many family members in Israeli attacks, to tell his personal story of life for families under the siege.

Later on Monday, the crew will visit a local mosque and will spend their evening at St Bride’s church in Liverpool, where they will take questions from members of the public. Eddie Scraggs will talk about an inspiring project in Gaza where a Liverpool medical team from Liverpool has been performing kidney transplants free of charge and there will also be a short film about a youth project in Gaza called “We are Not Numbers.”

The Handala will leave Liverpool for Cardiff on Wednesday.

The 16-year blockade of Gaza has had devastating effects on the local population of the territory, many of whom are refugees. Water consumption is well below the internationally recommended minimum, while electricity is often only available for a few hours a day. The blockade is aggravated by Israel’s regular bombing of the Gaza Strip and attacks on Gazan fishermen. Earlier this year, Israel’s bombardment of Gaza killed 49 Palestinians, including 17 children.

The UN and human rights monitoring bodies have repeatedly condemned the blockade as illegal, drawing attention to its disastrous effects on services like essential healthcare, education and sanitation and access to food, as well as the crippling impact on Gaza’s economy. Children have been particularly hard hit by the blockade, with Save the Children reporting that four out of five children in the Gaza Strip live with depression, grief and fear.

After finishing its tour of Europe, the Freedom Flotilla Coalition has announced its intention to sail to the Gaza Strip next year, despite the blockade. A 2010 attempt by the Gaza Freedom Flotilla to break the blockade saw a brutal attack by Israeli commandos – while the boats were still in international waters – that killed nine passengers and wounded dozens.

Helen Marks, Secretary of Liverpool Friends of Palestine, said:

The blockade of Gaza is illegal, immoral and barbaric. It is designed to punish and control an entire population by limiting their access to the resources required to live fulfilled lives. It needs to be brought to an end alongside Israel’s wider system of apartheid exercised over all Palestinians.

The flotilla’s visit to Liverpool is an important means of raising awareness of these injustices and building the pressure on our Government to take meaningful action to hold Israel to account for its violation of Palestinian rights and of international law.

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