Israel and Egypt have come to an understanding by which ships taking
part in an upcoming flotilla
to the Gaza Strip will be allowed to unload
their cargo of humanitarian goods at the Egyptian port of El-Arish,
from where it will be transferred on land to Gaza after being checked,
Israel Radio reported on Monday.
The government has declared that the flotilla, scheduled to arrive at Gaza later this week, will not be allowed to
enter the territory by sea. If necessary the ships will be towed into Ashdod Port
and the equipment on the ships impounded.
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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu convened his security cabinet for briefings from top naval officials and security officials on the Gaza-bound flotilla on Sunday evening. The security cabinet was scheduled to reconvene on Monday morning to further discuss the flotilla.
The Israel Navy is gearing up to stop the flotilla
that plans to run the blockade of the Gaza Strip, amid predictions that violence will be minimal after Turkey’s IHH organization – behind the Mavi Marmara
last year – withdrew from the initiative.
According to organizers, a number of the vessels – including the US ship The Audacity of Hope
– are to set sail from Greece on Monday or Tuesday and then meet other ships that have already begun their journeys from France and Ireland at a rendezvous spot in the Mediterranean Sea.
Vessels from Italy, Spain and Canada are also participating in the flotilla.
On Sunday, Greek officials blocked some of the ships from setting sail to Gaza and organizers said that they had hired lawyers who will fight the stop-order with the aim of allowing the vessels to leave harbor on Monday or Tuesday.
“We expect the flotilla to set sail later in the week,” a military source said. “We are preparing for various scenarios, from no violence to extreme violence.”
The navy and Military Intelligence are closely tracking the flotilla, as well as reports that a Jordanian ship with close to 200 Palestinian and other Arab activists might join the voyage toward Gaza.
“We are pleased that the Turks are not participating but do not yet know what to expect until we meet the ships at sea,” the military source said.
The navy plans to stop the flotilla far from Gaza, after issuing a warning that the territory is under a sea blockade.
“If the ships continue sailing after being warned, then we will have the right to stop them even if they did not yet enter Gaza’s territorial waters,” a defense official explained.
During Sunday's special security cabinet meeting, ministers heard intelligence reports regarding the number of vessels, the passengers on board, and what the ships are carrying.
Israeli officials expressed satisfaction that Cyprus has banned the use of it ports for the enterprise, and that Greece and numerous other countries – such as the US, Canada, France and Australia – have issued strong warnings to their citizens not to participate.