By Motasem Dalloul in Gaza
Palestinians board one of the Free Gaza vessels to greet 46 international human rights activists [MOTASEM A. DALLOUL]
Two vessels carrying 46 international human rights activists reached the Gaza Strip on Saturday despite Israeli warnings for the flotilla not to breach the blockade.
However, Israel backed away from its warnings and the activists – volunteers from 17 countries – were allowed to finish their 370-km voyage which embarked from Cyprus.
The boats were greeted at Gaza’s main port by thousands of people waving Palestinian flags, many of them sailing around the harbour in boats to welcome the activists.
Al Jazeera was in the throngs of waiting people and interviewed some of the activists as they made land.
Giovanopoulos: We decided to enter [Gaza] by any means [MOTASEM A. DALLOUL] Christos Giovanopoulos, Greek activist
I feel like it is a dream to have finally entered the Gaza Strip. We thought that the Israelis would stop us from entering the Strip as they have said, but they could not.
However, from the beginning, we were sure that we would reach Gaza because we decided to enter by any means.
Our visit is in solidarity with the Gazans. We are telling them that you are not alone as you face against the cruelty of the Israelis who do not respect laws.
We want to tell the world that the Europeans are against the siege of Gaza as children die of the shortage of food and medicine. Our message to the Israelis is we do not support them and more than that, we oppose them and we will fight against their policy of besieging Gaza.
George Oratzas, Greece
It was the best moment in my life to come to the Gaza Strip and stand beside the bereaved people living in it. It was a moment of ecstasy when we planted our feet on the land of Gaza as it is a proof of a successful strife for its freedom.
Our visit is symbolic rather than a form of assistance. We want to tell the world that it is possible to do something for the Gazans if you want. You just have to move. Don’t wait for official permissions.
I want to tell the Gazans that we haven’t forgotten them and we won’t do that at all. We want to tell our governments that we don’t agree with their official support for the Israeli war against the Gazans and we want to tell the Israelis that they can’t stop any solidarity movement with the Gazans.
We did not face a lot of dangers during our voyage and the Israelis couldn’t approach us, they fled far away from us and we didn’t see them at all.
Dlarst: I hope this will be the first step towards breaking the siege [MOTASEM A. DALLOUL]
Dr William Dlarst, Washington-based physician
I have visited the Strip many times and the last time was in 2006. I feel that this visit has been the most crucial as it reflects moral support for the Gazans.
I feel very joyful; look at how the people have become cheerful because of our visit. It is the first time in my life to watch this number of people waiting for me.
I know that this visit does not bring too much help for Gaza’s residents; however, I hope that this will be the first step taken towards breaking the siege.
Regarding suffering, I don’t think that what we experienced on our journey here can be classified as painful. Bbut it is a joy; pain which ends in joy is preferable pain.
Yvonne Ridley, British journalist
It is the best end to a difficult journey; a journey which aims to ease the difficult life of the innocent besieged residents of Gaza.
This moment is the end of 23 days of suffering. Yes, it was a very difficult and dangerous voyage as communications and connection to the outside world were blocked while we were at sea.
I know that this journey is symbolic. It represents a crack in the strong barrier represented by the siege and I call for all to take similar steps to free Gaza.
I call on European nations to stand with the Gazans and support their rights.
This voyage proves that those who threaten people and also threatened us are weak. Today we showed how weak the Israeli occupation is.
David Harbor: Our people support the rights of Gaza’s residents [MOTASEM A. DALLOUL] David Harbor, American activist
It is a great moment to be a member of the first group of people who could break the siege of the oppressed Gaza Strip.
I could bear all kinds of sufferings for the sake of the innocent Gazans in order to make something through.
I can tell the world that there are people who suffer in this occupied spot.
We are here to say that our people support the rights of Gaza’s residents and to tell the Gazans that our people do not support the policy of our government which supports Israeli [policy] in this land.
We are pleased to have reached a peaceful end to this journey and to succeed in achieving our aims – to free the Gaza Strip.