Eight ships have been gathered in Greek ports preparing to sail to Gaza carrying humanitarian supplies and, in the case of the American ship, letters. Two have been sabotaged – the Irish and Swedish ships – and two have now been seized by Greece upon making attempts to leave port.

Today’s effort by the Canadian Tahrir mirrored the experience of the American Audacity to Hope, making a sudden run for international waters only to be hit with water cannons and boarded by Greek coast guard forces and now towed back to the port of Crete.

While the captain of the US ship has been jailed – and US activists who protested at the American Embassy in Athens arrested though later released. A number of the American activists have begun a hunger strike and all are asking for calls to the US State Department demanding the release of the ship’s captain. (see end of post for phone numbers and email addresses to contact.) (Updates from the USBOATTOGAZA.

The Canadian activists are – as of 4:30 PM Central 7/4/11 – refusing to leave the Tahrir and are reporting damage to the ship when Greek forces towing it back to port slammed the ship into a concrete wall. For more and for updates, you can follow CanadaBoattoGaza on twitter.

Two French Flotilla boats remain at sea as they did not dock in Greece and their plans are not currently confirmed.

All of which leads to the question of why Greece is blocking the ships from saiing? Greece has been moving closer to Israel recently – in fact, the Greek and Israeli Air Forces completed a two week joint training mission only today;

Israel’s Air Force on Monday concluded a two-week drill with the Hellenic Air Force as the two nations cemented growing ties between their militaries, recently reflected in Greece’s recent move to halt a Gaza-bound flotilla set to depart from its shores.

The joint drill was held at Greece’s Larisa Air Base, and several elite Israeli squadrons, along with the IDF’s elite rescue unit 669 took part in the exercise along with the Greek military. (h/t Max Blumenthal)

And Israel is one of the sources Greece goes to when it needs to restock tear gas supplies which were apparently all used up in the quashing of anti-austerity protesters

Alex Kane at Mondoweiss points to this article in Haaretz for more information on this newly tight friendship.

Israeli diplomats can attest that the budding friendship between the two countries over the course of the past year-and-a-half has been nothing short of dramatic. Intelligence communication has increased, the IAF has conducted a number of joint exercises with Greece’s air force and Netanyahu has requested Papandreou’s assistance in passing on several messages to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas…

Many of Netanyahu and Papandreou’s talks in the past few months have revolved around the severe financial crisis Greece is currently suffering. Netanyahu recently decided to come to the aid of his newfound friend in a meeting of foreign ministers and European leaders, imploring them to provide Greece with financial aid.

“Netanyahu has become Greece’s lobbyist to the European Union,” an Israeli diplomat said.

In recent weeks, as efforts to stop the impending pro-Palestinian flotilla to Gaza came to a head, Netanyahu reaped the benefits of his investment in Israel-Greece ties and his gamble on the European country paid off…

And when the moment of truth came, Greece followed through and ordered all Gaza-bound departures be blocked from leaving its ports. Greece’s decision, along with the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation’s (IHH) announcement that it would not be sending the Mavi Marmara and the president of Cypress’s statement forbidding ships from sailing to Gaza sealed the fate of the flotilla almost entirely.

Tomorrow, the captain of the Audacity has a court hearing and we are still waiting to hear what will happen to the Canadian’s aboard Tahrir. You can help by contacting the US Embassy and State Department to speak up for the right of all to travel freely.

Let them know you want them to help secure the release of John Klusmire, as well as the release of the U.S. Boat to Gaza. Tell them you expect the U.S. government to support the right if its citizens to sail freely to Gaza.

State Department general number: 202-647-4000 – ask for the Overseas U.S. Citizen Services Duty Officer and you’ll get a live State Dept. official who has to hear you out.

You can email the U.S. Embassy in Athens at: athensamemb@state.gov or you can send an email to them at: athensamericancitizenservices@state.gov

Siun

Siun

Siun is a proud Old Town resident who shares her home with two cats and a Great Pyrenees. She’s worked in media relations and on the net since before the www, led the development of a corporate responsibility news service, and knows what a mult box is thanks to Nico. When not swimming in the Lake, she leads a team working on sustainability tools.

Email: media dot firedoglake at gmail dot com

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