The Israeli navy “is prepared to prevent” pro-Palestinian activists from reaching the Gaza Strip in two vessels that left Turkey on Wednesday, a military official said
The two ships, carrying medical aid and activists, have set sail from Fethiye on Turkey’s southern coast on Wednesday afternoon and planned to arrive in Gaza on Friday in a new bid to break Israel’s blockade of the Strip, the Freedom Waves told AFP.
Lieutenant-Colonel Avital Leibovich, speaking to reporters by telephone, would not say how the boats might be stopped, but said Israel was aware two yachts had set sail and added that Israel would offer to deliver to Gaza any aid supplies the activists were carrying, Reuters reported.
The mini-flotilla, made up of two boats called the Canadian Tahrir and the Irish Saoirse, is reportedly carrying 27 people, including journalists and crew members, along with $30,000 worth of medicines.
“Two civilian boats, the Canadian Tahrir (Liberation), and the Irish Saoirse (Freedom) ... are currently in international waters making their way to the beleaguered Gaza Strip to challenge Israel’s ongoing criminal blockade of the territory,” a statement issued by the Freedom Waves group said.
“We have the wind of public opinion at our back and in our sails, which strengthens our resolve and determination to challenge the illegal blockade of Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants,” the Canadian Boat to Gaza organizer Ehab Lotayef said.
An Israeli armed forces spokeswoman said the navy “is prepared to prevent their ability to reach the Gaza Strip,” without specifying how.
“We understand that this is once again another provocation in a long line of provocations against the State of Israel,” Avital Leibovitch told the media.
She recalled that the U.N.-appointed Palmer committee, which investigated the deaths aboard the Mavi Marmara, had ruled that the maritime blockade of Gaza was legal.
Leibovitch said that Israel transferred to Gaza 300 trucks a day of supplies.
“I fail to understand how two yachts can carry on board any supplies that would compete with the amount of supplies that are entering every day into Gaza,” she said.
Israel has vigorously defended its right to maintain a blockade on Gaza, which it says is necessary to prevent weapons from entering the coastal territory.
Activists organized a major attempt to break Israel’s blockade in May 2010, when a flotilla of ships led by the Turkish Mavi Marmara tried to sail to Gaza.
Israeli naval commandos raided the flotilla, killing nine Turkish activists and sparking a diplomatic crisis that culminated earlier this year in Ankara expelling Israel’s ambassador and suspending military ties with the Jewish state.