Israel and the United States have threatened journalists and human rights campaigners against taking part in a Gaza Strip-bound aid mission.
On Sunday, Oren Helman, director of Israel’s Government Press Office, said joining the Freedom Flotilla II convoy could “lead to participants being denied entry into…Israel for ten years, to the impoundment of their equipment and to additional sanctions,” Reuters reported.
The fleet, which includes some 500 activists on board of 10 vessels, would depart for the impoverished enclave on Tuesday.
Tel Aviv claims the fleet would be violating its 2007-present siege of Gaza. The blockade has been depriving the enclave’s 1.5-million Palestinians of food, fuel and other necessities.
Helman called the mission a “provocative and dangerous event, the purpose of which is to undermine Israel’s right to defend itself and to knowingly violate Israeli law.”
The activists are accompanied by at least one reporter for the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz named Amira Hass, who is to arrive in Gaza onboard a Canadian vessel known as Tahrir (Liberation).
The Foreign Press Association responded to Tel Aviv’s warning, saying, “The government’s threat to punish journalists covering the Gaza flotilla sends a chilling message to the international media and raises serious questions about Israel’s commitment to freedom of the press.”
The United Nations and a number of governments have also warned the flotilla not to set sail.
Washington has called on its nationals to not take part in the protest move.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has branded the move as a ‘provoking act.’ “We do not believe that the flotilla is a necessary or useful effort to try to assist the people of Gaza,” she has said.