UN urges restraint as Israel vows to stop Gaza aid flotilla

UNITED NATIONS - The United Nations urged restraint Thursday as Israel vowed to stop pro-Palestinian activists aboard an aid-laden flotilla from reaching the besieged, Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

By (AFP)

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Published: Fri 28 May 2010, 10:01 AM

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

“We understand from press reports that private citizens have assembled a number of ships carrying material intended for Gaza and will seek to deliver these materials directly by sea to Gaza,” UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said in a statement.

“We strongly urge that all involved act with a sense of care and responsibility and work for a satisfactory resolution,” he added.

Nesirky restated UN opposition “to the closure of Gaza and our concern at the insufficient flow of material through legitimate crossing points to meet basic needs, begin reconstruction, and revive economic life.”

He said the world body continued to urge Israeli authorities “to facilitate a greater range and quantity of traffic through legitimate crossings to meet urgent needs in Gaza.”

Earlier Thursday, pro-Palestinian activists vowed to steam on to Gaza and bust the Israeli sea blockade while Israel again warned it would intercept the ships.

“We have the right to sail from international waters into the waters of Gaza,” said Greta Berlin, one of the flotilla’s organizers.

“The only illegal presence in the area is Israel,” she told AFP, adding the “Freedom Flotilla” was on schedule to arrive in the Palestinian enclave on Saturday with more than 10,000 tonnes of building and other supplies.

But Israel insisted it would prevent the three cargo ships and five passenger boats from reaching the Islamist-run Gaza Strip, calling the blockade-busting bid a “cheap political stunt.”

The Israeli foreign ministry said it summoned the ambassadors of Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Sweden and Ireland — the countries from which the ships set sail — and warned them Israel “issued warrants that prohibit the entrance of the vessels to Gaza.”

The flotilla “is about to break international law,” the ministry’s Director General Yossi Gal told the diplomats, adding the coastal enclave “is under the control of a terrorist organization, which does not prioritize the well-being of the citizens of Gaza.”

He also said Israel “declares the flotilla an absolute provocation” and that there is no shortage of humanitarian aid in Gaza.

Israel has vowed to divert the ships to the southern Israeli port of Ashdod, where it will detain the activists before deporting them.

Israel and Egypt have sealed Gaza off to all but basic humanitarian aid since Hamas — which is blacklisted as a terrorist group by the European Union and the United States — seized power in June 2007.

Hamas on Thursday said Israel’s threats to intercept the flotilla amounted to “Zionist piracy.”

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