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Maan: Free Gaza expected before dark; welcome boats turn back after Israeli warships fire warning shots

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Palestinians who launched boats to greet the Free Gaza crew turned back for land after warning shots were fired by Israeli warships in Gaza waters.

Problems with navigation equipment which the crew blames on signal-jamming radio waves broadcast by Israel, has delayed the arrival of the ships.

Originally expected to dock in the early afternoon, the estimated time of arrival for the wooden boats is between five and seven this evening.

Twenty journalists had launched 11 boats from the Gaza beach in order to receive the Free Gaza ships coming from Cyprus to break the siege, but almost all have returned to shore.

Palestinian citizens have been waiting for the ships to arrive since morning, though they are not in sight yet.

At 10am local time the crew of the Free Gaza released the following statement to the project’s organizers:

“The electronic systems which guarantee our safety aboard the SS Free Gaza and SS Liberty have been jammed and scrambled. Both ships are flying Greek flags, and are in international waters. We are the victims of electronic piracy. We are currently in GMS P area A2 and we are relying on our satellite communications equipment to make a distress call, if needed.

We are civilians from 17 nations and are on this project to break the siege of Gaza. We are not experienced sailors. As a result, there is concern about the health and safety of the people on board such an emergency develop.

We are currently experiencing rough sea conditions, and we call on the Greek government and the international community to meet their responsibilities and protect the civilians on board our two ships in international waters.”

Jamal Al-Khudari, Chairman of the People’s committee against the blockade and member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), warned Israel against harming the ships, which are carrying international peace activists and medical supplies for the people of Gaza.

He said in a press conference Saturday morning that organizers had lost contact with the ships for several hours during their voyage due to Israeli distortion frequencies that were broadcast. The ships resumed contact with Gaza later on in the early hours of the morning.

Al-Khudari commended the activists for persevering despite the disturbances, and added that the crew had come across water mines as they entered Gaza waters.

“We will meet them and honor them as heroes,” said Al-Khudari.