Freedom flotilla gains partial victory, eases blockade of the Gaza Strip, 2010


End the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Time period notes

The flotilla began on 30 May, but the ships were raided and taken over on the 31st. All the activists were released by the 6th.

Time period

May 30th, 2010 to June 6th, 2010



Location Description

The nonviolent action mostly took place in the waters off of Israel.
Jump to case narrative

Methods in 1st segment

  • Activists sought to sail eight ships into Gaza, which was forbidden by the Israeli blockade

Segment Length

1 1/3 days


Turkish activists, distinguished figures

External allies

Turkish government

Involvement of social elites

Nobel laureates, Knesset members, and other public recognized figures took part in the organization of the flotilla and sailed on it


Israeli government

Campaigner violence

When the ship was raided some activists on the Mavi Marmara responded with clubs, chains, and perhaps even knives. Multiple soldiers were beaten and injured. The violence was not coordinated or sanctioned by the leaders of the flotilla.

Repressive Violence

Soldiers raided the flotilla and overtook the ships. They used tear gas, beatings, and live bullets. 9 activists were killed as a result.


Economic Justice
Human Rights
National-Ethnic Identity


Third-party nonviolent intervention

Group characterization

Turkish activists
distinguished figures

Groups in 1st Segment

Turkish activists
distinguished figures

Segment Length

1 1/3 days

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

2 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


0 out of 3 points

Total points

3 out of 10 points

Database Narrative

In May 2010 the Free Gaza Movement launched a flotilla to deliver
humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip and challenge Israel’s blockade of
the strip.  This was the ninth mission the Free Gaza Movement had
launched, although the last three missions had been blocked by the
Israeli Navy.  This flotilla included eight ships, while the past
flotillas had only included one or two.

Three ships carried passengers as well as humanitarian aid, while the
rest just carried passengers.  The flotilla consisted of two Greek
ships, two from the US, and one each from Comoros, Turkey, Kiribati, and
Cambodia.  They carried over 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid.  This
included food, medicine, and clothing as well as materials that the
Israeli authorities forbade, such as cement.  The flotillas included 663
passengers in total and 600 sailed on the ship the Mavi Marmara.  Over
half the passengers were Turkish, but there were passengers from 37
countries in total.  The passengers also included the former UN
Assistant Secretary General Denis Halliday, a Holocaust survivor, Nobel
Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire, and an Israeli-Arab
Knesset member.

Following the announcement of the flotilla, Israel challenged the
organizers’ plan.  It both questioned the flotilla’s motives and said
that it would violate international law.  Israel offered for the
flotilla to dock in Ashdod and to then transfer the supplies to the Gaza
Strip, including the materials not allowed by the blockade.  Activists
preferred to deliver the humanitarian supplies and break the blockade. 
Also, they did not trust that the supplies would be delivered by the
Israelis.  As a result, they did not agree to the Israeli proposition.

Six of the ships set sail from international waters off the coast of
Cyprus on 30 May, while two had mechanical problems and did not launch. 
On 31 May, Israeli authorities communicated to the ships that they
should redirect their path to Ashdod, but the ships replied that they
intended  to go to Gaza.

During the night of the 31st, after the flotilla did not comply with
Israeli directives, troops began to mobilize.  Helicopters approached
the ship and heavily armed troops rappelled down.  The heaviest attack
targeted the Mavi Marmara, but troops also boarded the other ships. 
They carried tear gas, stun grenades, and guns.  All the passengers on
the ships excluding the Mavi Marmara reacted nonviolently.  Many
passengers on the Mavi Marmara tried to find shelter and acted
nonviolently.  However, after it became clear that Israeli soldiers
would board the ship, some passengers responded violently.  This does
not appear to have been a planned reaction or condoned by the leaders of
the flotilla, but there also does not seem to have been a total
agreement to nonviolence beforehand.

During their assault on the Mavi Marmara, Israeli troops beat and opened
fire on the primarily nonviolent activists.  Some activists used
chains, clubs, and perhaps even knives as weapons against the attacking
commandos.  Activists heavily beat some commandoes, and soldiers beat
and shot many activists.  In the end, the clashes injured many activists
and killed nine, while they injured seven soldiers.

After the fights ended, Israeli forces towed the ships to shore in
Israel.  Israeli authorities agreed to deliver the goods from the ships
that the terms of the blockade did not forbid.  However, Hamas insisted
that they wanted to break the blockade instead of just receiving goods,
and they refused the entry of any goods unless Israel delivered all of
them.  As a result, Israel never delivered the goods.  Nevertheless, on
17 June Israel announced a relaxation of the blockade.

After the Israeli authorities towed the ships to shore, they placed the
activists in detention.  Israel began releasing activists on 1 June, and
they immediately deported all the activists after their release. 
Israel released and deported 300 activists on 2 June.  Some activists
continued to be held for several days, and Israel released the last
activists on 6 June.

Israel received severe criticism as a result of their attack on the
ships.  The UN eventually released a report criticizing Israel’s
actions.  Israel’s relationship with Turkey also suffered.  


Earlier Gaza flotillas influenced this one (1)


Booth, Robert. “Israeli Attack on Gaza Flotilla Sparks International Outrage.” The Guardian. May 31. Retrieved May 22, 2015 (

Farrell, Bryan. 2010. “Freedom Flotilla Attacked by Israeli Navy, Deaths Reported - Waging Nonviolence.” Waging Nonviolence Freedom Flotilla attacked by Israeli Navy deaths reported Comments. May 31. Retrieved February 22, 2015 (

Farrell, Bryan. 2010. “Freedom Flotilla Sets Sail to Interrupt "discourse of Power" Controlling Palestinian Future - Waging Nonviolence.” Waging Nonviolence Freedom Flotilla sets sail to interrupt discourse of power controlling Palestinian future Comments. May 18. Retrieved February 22, 2015 (

Larudee, Paul. 2010. “The Price of Defying Israel.” The Huffington Post. June 10. Retrieved February 22, 2015 (

Schneider, Nathan. 2010. “Nonviolence and the Gaza Freedom Movement - Waging Nonviolence.” Waging Nonviolence Nonviolence and the Gaza Freedom Movement Comments. May 31. Retrieved February 22, 2015 (

Taylor, Matthew. 2010. “Gaza Flotilla Lesson: Nonviolent Discipline Is the Best Moral and Strategic Choice.” Mondoweiss. June 11. Retrieved February 23, 2015 ( ).

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Timothy Hirschel-Burns 03/01/2015