Greek shipping workers accused of kidnapping foreigners headed for Gaza told their side of the story Sunday, accusing the activists of attempting to hijack their vessel. The activists had stormed onto the deck of the Strofades IV in Libya’s Derna port, and demanded to go to Egypt and then Gaza, they said.
“There is no contract between us and the activists, what they did was illegal,” Ionian Bridge Shipping official Maria Georgoulia said.
Several activists had claimed that the captain of the Greek vessel had “gone crazy,” and left Libya suddenly without giving them a chance to disembark.
According to the Greek crew, the activists were faking the whole thing. The group “put on a whole show at the deck, wearing lifebuoys and pretending to be in danger,” Georgoulia charged. In fact, she said, the crew had fed the activists and treated them well despite the fact that they had tried to storm the ship.
The activists had planned to go to Gaza in defiance of Israel’s naval blockade on Hamas. They are part of the Road to Hope project, formerly known as Lifeline to Gaza. While Lifeline to Gaza was organized by Viva Palestina, run by the openly pro-Hamas George Galloway, organizers of the latest attempt to defy Israel’s ban on incoming vessels say they have no connection to Viva Palestina.
They say they had contracted with the captain of the Strofades IV for activists’ transport to Gaza, but that an argument broke out over the terms of the contract.
Among the activists aboard the Strofades IV were some who took part in an earlier attempt to break Israel’s blockade on Hamas, and were aboard the Mavi Marmara, a ship whose passengers attacked IDF commandos as they came on board, leading to a clash in which nine passengers were killed and several soldiers wounded.