Israel calls Gaza blockade-busting flotilla a provocation

JERUSALEM - Israel claimed on Wednesday that a flotilla of pro-Palestinian activists seeking to bust the Gaza blockade is a provocation and that the aid it is carrying is “unnecessary”.

By Afp

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Published: Thu 27 May 2010, 8:24 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 8:00 AM

“I don’t see the need for any ship with these materials. We allow these materials into Gaza,” Colonel Moshe Levy told reporters at the Kerem Shalom crossing in reference to the 10,000 tonnes of building materials and other supplies the activists say are aboard a flotilla headed towards Gaza.

“The sail is a provocative act that is unnecessary in light of the figures, which indicate that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is good and stable,” said Levy, who heads the Gaza coordination and liaison office.

Pointing to pallets stacked with cement bound for UN projects, as well as stacks of xerox paper, toilet paper and tea, Levy stressed that Israel allows the transfer of many products to the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave.

“There are some things that are not permitted because Hamas exploits the humanitarian situation to improve its military capabilities instead of easing the hardship in Gaza,” he said.

Humanitarian agencies say the embargo, imposed since Hamas seized power in Gaza in 2007, amounts to collective punishment of the 1.5 million residents of the overcrowded sliver of land that still bears the scars of a devastating Israeli offensive in January 2009.

Israel has said it will prevent the ships from reaching the Gaza Strip, and authorities have prepared facilities to detain the hundreds of activists aboard the vessels, according to media.

A military source said Wednesday that those detained would be repatriated and that, following security inspections, the aid would be transferred to Gaza through border crossings.

The head of the navy, Vice Admiral Eliezer Marum, “has instructed the forces to operate with the utmost sensitivity and not be drawn into needless provocations,” the source said.

Huwaida Arraf of Free Gaza, one of the groups taking part in the flotilla, said “we will non-violently resist Israeli attempts to seize our boats. Thousands of people have contributed to making this flotilla a reality, and the people of Gaza are expecting us.”

Greta Berlin, another of the organisers, said the boats would seek to evade capture. “We intend to stay at sea and have supplies on board for two months.”

Asked if she feared Israel might arrest all the participants, she said: “You might want to ask the Israelis what they intend to do with 750 civilians.”

Three cargo vessels left from Ireland, Greece and Turkey in recent days and plan to rendezvous with six smaller passenger boats off the coast of Cyprus before steaming on to Gaza where organisers hope to arrive by Saturday.

Last June the Israeli navy intercepted a ship carrying journalists and activists, including Irish Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire, from Cyprus to Gaza and towed it into the southern Israeli port of Ashdod.

The crew and passengers were returned home after being questioned by police.

Israel claims the activists are playing into the hands of Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules Gaza and which the West blacklists as a terrorist organisation.

“While they have wrapped themselves in a humanitarian cloak, they are engaging in political propaganda and not in pro-Palestinian aid,” said foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.

Israel allows humanitarian and basic supplies into Gaza, but aid agencies say the quantities fall far short of what is needed in the enclave, which relies largely on smuggling tunnels under the generally sealed border with Egypt.

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