Trawler leaves Sweden in attempt to break Gaza naval blockade

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A trawler left its port in Sweden to travel some 5,000 nautical miles in order to break Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The boat, named Marianne of Gothenburg and purchased jointly by Ship to Gaza Sweden and Ship to Gaza Norway, left on its journey on Sunday evening. It is the first ship in the Freedom Flotilla III to leave for Gaza, according to the website of Ship to Gaza Sweden.

The Marianne will stop at ports in Helsingborg, Malmö and Copenhagen, as well as other ports that will be announced later, according to the website.

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The boat does not have room for a significant cargo, but will be carrying solar panels and medical equipment, according to the organization.

It is carrying five crew members and eight passengers. Among the passengers are: Israeli-born Swedish citizen Dror Feiler, a musician and spokesperson of  Ship to Gaza; Henry Ascher, a professor of Public Health and pediatrician; Lennart Berggren, a filmmaker; Maria Svensson, pro. tem. spokesperson of the Feministiskt initiative; and Mikael Karlsson, chairperson of Ship to Gaza Sweden.

The boat is named after Marianne Skoog, a veteran member of the Swedish Palestine Solidarity movement, who died in May 2014.

Sweden officially recognized the state of Palestine in October 2014.The Ship to Gaza organization is calling for an immediate end to the naval blockade of Gaza; opening of the Gaza Port; and secure passage for Palestinians between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The Freedom Flotilla’s first attempt to break the blockade ended in the deaths of nine Turkish activists after Israeli Navy commandos on May 31, 2010 boarded the Mavi Marmara, which claimed to be carrying humanitarian aid, after warning the ship not to sail into waters near the Gaza Strip in circumvention of Israel’s naval blockade of the coastal strip. A second attempt was turned back in October 2012.