The Israel Navy is prepared to intercept and take control of ships participating
in a new attempt to break the blockade of Gaza Strip, a senior navy officer said
on Tuesday, one year after the operation to stop the Mavi Marmara passenger ship
that ended with nine Turkish men dead.
“We will order the ships to stop,
but if they don’t, we are prepared to intercept and board the ships,” the senior
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The flotilla of 15 ships, organized by the
Turkish IHH organization – which is outlawed in Israel due to its ties with
Hamas – as well as the Free Gaza Movement, plans to set sail for the Gaza Strip
late this month.
The organizers are now working to raise money to buy the
ships, and they may have to delay their launch date by several days or even
Under the blockade, Gaza fishermen are allowed to sail 3 km. from
the Strip, but no farther. Vessels from elsewhere are not allowed come within 20
km. of Gaza.
According to international maritime law, however, the Israel
Navy is allowed to intercept and take control of a ship that declares its
intention to sail to Gaza, even before it enters the area of the
IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen.
Benny Gantz told the
Knesset on Tuesday that Israel was prepared for the new flotilla. “The IDF
learned the lessons of the Marmara,” Gantz told the Foreign Affairs and Defense
“The IDF will act to prevent any attempt to break the naval
“The flotilla’s organizers want to provoke us, not to provide
aid to Gaza,” he said. “There is no humanitarian crisis; hundreds of trucks of
food and supplies enter Gaza every day.”
The chief of staff added that
the naval blockade is supported by international law. “Recently, the UN
secretary- general said the blockade is legal and the flotilla is illegal,”
The navy has been conducting training exercises in recent
weeks in conjunction with the air force in line with the lessons learned from
last year’s flotilla. Members of the Israel Police and the Prisons Service, who
specialize in quelling civilian violence, will participate in the operation to
stop the flotilla together with the commandos from Navy Flotilla 13, better
known as the Shayetet.
The senior navy officer said Israel was preparing
a number of “surprises” for the ships that are expected to participate in the
He said soldiers were under order to use force to “neutralize”
armed protesters and attackers if necessary, but that the goal would be to take
over the ships nonviolently and without casualties on either side.
prevent violent clashes, the navy has come up with ways to board as many
soldiers at once onto the ships, and not one-by-one as was done last year. The
soldiers have trained for a wide-range of scenarios, from passive violence to
passengers who try to attack the soldiers with weapons or explosives.