Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Israel PM orders navy to stop aid flotilla

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Source: Press TV

Israel's security cabinet has ordered the navy to use all possible means to prevent the incoming international aid flotilla from reaching the Gaza Strip.

After two days of closed-doors meetings, the ministers committee on security affairs on Monday voted in favor of the navy plans to stop the convoy of vessels known as Freedom Flotilla II from breaching the Israeli-imposed naval blockade on the Palestinian territory, giving the army authority to use “all necessary means” during the operation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said in a statement.

The statement also said that the cabinet has also ordered Israeli troops to operate with "maximal restraint and avoid clashes with activists on board the vessels."

Israeli officials say navy commandos have revised their tactics in the wake of the May 31, 2010 attack, which killed nine Turkish activists on board the leading ship, Turkish-flagged MV Mavi Marmara, and drew international condemnation.

Israeli ministers also said that Tel Aviv and Egyptian authorities have reached an understanding on the issue of aid convoy and that ships participating in the pro-Palestinian flotilla will be directed to the Israeli port of Ashdod or Egypt's El-Arish port to unload their cargo. After inspections the cargo will be transferred overland to Gaza.

The cabinet has also ordered the Foreign Ministry to continue its diplomatic efforts to prevent the flotilla from setting sail to Gaza.

Meanwhile, organizers of Freedom Flotilla II said on Monday that Tel Aviv is pressuring Greece to halt the ships' departure. Greece is being used as a departure point with around seven of the vessels already docked in various Greek ports. The vessels would meet in international waters south of Cyprus before heading to Gaza.

The fleet, with around 350 pro-Palestinian activists from 22 countries on board of some 10 ships, would depart for the impoverished enclave on Tuesday in a bid to break Israel's five-year blockade on the coastal territory which is home to 1.5 million Palestinians.

Organizers say the convoy will carry medicine, a fully-equipped ambulance and cement.

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