Famous Swedes On Ships Racing to Gaza

Eleven Swedes, including bestselling crime author Henning Mankell, are onboard ships laden with medicine and schoolbooks travelling to the Middle East to protest Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. Led by a Turkish relief organization, the Ship to Gaza operation has the support of international human rights organizations, including some based in Sweden.

Swedish representatives for the organization met with Foreign Minister Carl Bildt today to deliver a petition signed by 3,000 Swedes calling for protection of the maritime convoy.

But Israel is determined to stop the ships from reaching Gaza, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry told Swedish Radio News.

Yigal Palmor declined to go into detail regarding Israel’s plan to stop the nine ships, but he did say that violence was an option.

“They will be stopped by force if that is their choice,” he said.

Asked by Swedish Radio News if Israel is ready to fire on the ships, Palmor replied that “we have never threatened anyone with fire or weapons, but they can’t go into the Gaza waters. They will be stopped.”

Israel sees the Ship to Gaza campaign as a provocation embarked upon by activists who act on orders from Hamas.

“We cannot allow Hamas to use this as a propaganda effort,” Palmor told Swedish Radio correspondent Cecilia Uddén in Jerusalem.

Besides Henning Mankell, the ship is carrying the Swedish religious historian Mattias Gardell, parliamentarian Mehmet Kaplan, and the Swedish-Israeli artist Dror Feiler.