Israel has the full right to work against attempts to prepare the ground for smuggling missiles, rockets and weapons into “Hamas’s terror enclave,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Thursday night, in reference to the Gaza-bound flotilla that was still tied up in Greek ports.
“Sometimes we must not only fend off the physical attacks of our enemies, but also ward off the attack on our right to defend ourselves,” Netanyahu said in a speech to graduating cadets of the IAF pilots course at the Hatzerim Air Base near Beersheba.RELATED:'Holland's Hamas leader is brain behind Dutch flotilla''Damaged Irish ship won't join flotilla after sabotage'
Israel hopes Gaza flotilla delay will reduce participation
“In this connection, I wish to thank the many world leaders – led by US and European leaders, the UN secretary- general and my friend Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou – who have spoken and acted recently against the provocation flotilla,” the prime minister continued.
Netanyahu characterized Hamas as a cruel enemy that “intentionally attacks our people and our children, and which has held Gilad Schalit in evil captivity for five years, against all international treaties and conventions.”
Irish anti-Israel activists, meanwhile, have accused “agents of Israel” of “sabotage” after a ship that was set to join the flotilla was allegedly damaged on purpose while docked in Turkey on Thursday.
“Terrible news has reached us in the early hours of Thursday – the Irish ship to Gaza, MV Saoirse, has been sabotaged, presumably by agents of Israel,” the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign said on its website.
“The damage is extensive, and indeed, if it had gone undetected, apparently may have been life-threatening if the ship had been at sea,” the group claimed.
“This wasn’t designed to stop the ship from leaving its berth. Instead it was intended that the fatal damage to the ship would occur while she was at sea and would have resulted in the deaths of several of those on board. This was a potentially murderous act,” the NGO maintained.
Calling it “an unacceptable act of aggression” against an Irish vessel in sovereign Irish territory, and “against the people of Palestine which this flotilla was intending to reach in an act of humanitarian solidarity,” the group called for an all-night demonstration outside the Israeli Embassy in Dublin on Thursday evening.
The activists urged people to bring sleeping bags to stage the overnight sit-in, hoping that they would shut down the embassy.
“We are calling on people to assemble at 6 p.m. at the Spire in O’Connell Street. From there we will march to the Israeli Embassy and stage an overnight sit-in outside (so bring sleeping bags etc).
We intend to shut down the Israeli Embassy! We need this demo to be as loud as possible, so if you have drums, bodrans, whistles, whatever, please bring them along.
“This act of sabotage against a peaceful humanitarian civil society mission (which has been paid for by 1000s of ordinary Irish people) must be protested in the strongest terms possible,” the group stated.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor, meanwhile, dismissed the charges, saying “they think they live in a James Bond movie. They should come out of the film world and start getting real.
“This is not Hollywood, and Israel is not the bad guy,” he said. “We are not surprised that the rule they live by is that if anything goes wrong, accuse Israel. This was an Israeli-bash fest since day one, and that it continues that way does not surprise anyone.”
US State Department spokesman Mark Toner on Thursday said the US had not received any sort of confirmation that flotilla ships were sabotaged.
"I’ve seen the press reports and haven’t had any other confirmation beyond that," Toner said, adding, "our opinion – that’s been stated very clearly from the State Department, both from the Secretary down to this podium – is that these flotillas are a bad idea, and there’s other ways to get this kind of assistance to the people of Gaza."
Toner stressed, "These vessels, these flotillas, in and of themselves, are not a good idea."
Meanwhile, Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein reacted to a Dutch report that Hamas leader from Holland Amin Abu Rashid, involved in raising funds for the Islamist organization, had been seen in recent days training with a flotilla crew in Greece.
The Dutch paper De Telegraaf on Thursday characterized Abu Rashid as the “brain” behind the flotilla, saying he helped arrange the purchase of the Dutch vessel expected to take part and raised much of the funding for the flotilla.
Rashid’s involvement, Edelstein said, “is clear proof that this is not a humanitarian flotilla, but a provocation and a terror operation in disguise as a flotilla.
“In the previous flotilla, Abu Rashid expressed his intentions to clash with IDF soldiers, and we must take into account that this will be his intention in the current flotilla,” Edelstein said.
In New York, opposition leader Tzipi Livni discussed the flotilla with UN Secretary-General Ban Kimoon.
Livni, according to a Kadima Party statement, said that anyone who wanted to aid Gazan civilians should do so via the proper channels, rather than through “grave provocations” such as the flotilla.Gil Hoffman and JPost.com staff contributed to this report.