Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of General Staff  Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz criticized the motives of activists taking part in the upcoming flotilla to Gaza, saying that the humanitarian situation there is not as bad as activists portray, Army Radio reported.

Speaking with Gantz at an IDF ceremony for reservists on Tuesday, Barak called the flotilla a "provocation," adding that "there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. If [activists] are sensitive to human suffering, then they need to turn their efforts to freeing [kidnapped soldier] Gilad Schalit or at least allowing him visitors."

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Gantz said that the flotilla was not even meant to bring Gazans humanitarian aid, but rather to work towards the deligitmization of Israel.

The IDF chief said that activists were blowing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza out of proportion, saying that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip do not lack basic supplies. According to Gantz, Gazans are "importing televisions and plasma screens, and exporting agricultural products to the entire Arab world."

Gantz added that the IDF was well equipped and ready to deal with any threat posed by flotilla activists. On Monday night, intelligence sources said that some flotilla activists may be planning to attack IDF soldiers with sulfur, or even attempt to kill some of Israel's troops.

Earlier Tuesday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israel Radio that flotilla participants are "terror activists, seeking to create provocation and looking for blood".

He said Israel plans to "deal with the flotilla properly," adding that, "Following our diplomatic activity, the number of boats, their size, and the number of participants has become less relevant. The majority of those who had initially planned to join the flotilla have been convinced by our explanations regarding the humanitarian situation in Gaza. They understand that those who wish to help can do this through legal means."

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.

The Navy has begun its final preparations to stop the vessels, and the IDF sources said that commandos who board the ships will be prepared for a wide-range of scenarios from no violence at all to extreme and violent resistance from the passengers.

Yaakov Katz and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.


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