- The Washington Times - Monday, February 7, 2011

Pro-Palestinian activists announced Monday that they would send a second flotilla aimed at breaking Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip during the last two weeks of May, roughly a year after an Israeli raid on the first “Freedom Flotilla” resulted in the deaths of nine passengers.

The Washington Times first reported last month that the new convoy is expected to have twice as many vessels as the original.

“More determined than ever to break and end the blockade, the Coalition announced today that during the second half of May 2011 Freedom Flotilla II will sail,” said a statement released by the organizers after a weekend meeting in Madrid. “To this end there will be twice as many boats carrying many more volunteers and more aid.”

An Israeli inquiry last month exonerated the Jewish state’s government and military for their roles in a May 31 melee aboard the Mavi Marmara, the largest ship in the Freedom Flotilla. Nine Turks were killed when passengers clashed with Israeli forces who boarded the ship.

Under international pressure, the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netnanyahu significantly relaxed its blockade of Gaza, allowing more exports and limiting banned imports to items with possible military uses.

Israel imposed the blockade after the Islamist group Hamas took over Gaza in June 2007, restricting the two-way flow of goods and people as a means to turn the population against Hamas and to limit the organization’s ability to launch rockets at Israeli towns.

Israel, which captured Gaza from Egypt in the 1967 Six-Day War, withdrew all soldiers and settlers from the small territory in August 2005 but has maintained control of its coastline and airspace.