Israel has confirmed it will block the next “Freedom Flotilla” seeking to break the maritime siege of Gaza. The flotilla is due to sail in June.
The Israeli Navy has said it has learnt lessons from last year’s freedom flotilla incident in which lots of civilians-especially Turkish civilians- were killed when Israeli commandos forcibly boarded the flotilla’s ships. It says it will focus on riot prevention measures for the planned “Freedom Flotilla 2” which sets out in June and use force only as a last resort.
According to JPost members of the Israeli police and prison service who are trained in quelling civilian riots will undertake the mission to stop the aid flotilla along with Navy Flotilla 13 commandos.
This year’s flotilla is due to be twice the size of last years. Its message this year is “Stay Human” in honour of Italian peace activist Attorio Arrigoni who was killed in Gaza this year.
Both UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and the Canadian Prime Minister have urged organisers to cancel the flotilla in fear of a repeat of last year’s killings.
Pro Israel Canadian Prime Minister John Baird has urged the Canadian section of the flotilla “Canadian Boat to Gaza” to withdraw from the flotilla saying that “unauthorized efforts to deliver aid are provocative and, ultimately, unhelpful to the people of Gaza”. The Canadian organisers of the flotilla have dismissed the advice.
Ban Ki Moon called on Middle Eastern countries to prevent the planned flotilla.
The flotilla is seeking to break a siege imposed by Israel on the Palestinian Territory of Gaza. No ships may enter within 20 km of Gaza without Israeli permission according to Israeli guidelines.
Last year’s freedom flotilla were well outside these boundaries, however, when Israeli commandos boarded and redeployed the ships to the Israeli port of Eratz