Israel urged Lebanon and the international community on Friday to stop two ships
from sailing to the Gaza Strip from Lebanon.
This flotilla was an attempt
to “incite a confrontation and raise tensions in our region,” Ambassador to the
UN Gabriela Shalev said in letters to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the
Shalev’s attempt to get the international community to
stop the two vessels, the Junia
and the Julia
, came the same day that Defense
Minister Ehud Barak issued a statement saying the planned Lebanese flotilla was
an “unnecessary provocation,” and that Israel held the Lebanese government
responsible for preventing the ships from sailing to break the blockade of
The Israel Navy had been on high alert on Friday amid predictions
that the ships were preparing to depart for the Gaza Strip.
that if the cargo the ships were carrying was of a humanitarian nature it would
be allowed into Gaza via Ashdod Port and land crossings into Gaza controlled by
“If the ships refuse to accompany the navy to Ashdod, we will
have no choice but to stop it at sea,” he said.
Defense officials said
that the navy had deployed ships at sea to stop the Lebanese vessels and that
teams of commandos from the navy’s Flotilla 13 – known as the Shayetet – were on
standby in case they were needed to board the ships and prevent them from
sailing to the Strip.
The organizer behind the ships is Yasser Kashlak, a
Syrian of Palestinian origin. Two ships were expected to depart Tripoli to try
and break the blockade. One of the vessels is carrying women and the other is
Shalev, in her letter, wrote that “Israel reserves
its right under international law to use all necessary means to prevent these
ships from violating the... naval blockade.”
She called on foreign
governments to deter their nationals from taking part in these types of
On Friday, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky, relating to the
planned Lebanese flotilla, said those who wish to deliver humanitarian aid to
Gaza should do so by land and not try to break Israel’s sea
Hamas reacted furiously to these comments, calling them –
according to an Al-Jazeera report – tantamount to “collaboration with the
“The UN call to international organizations to use the
overland road to Gaza instead of the sea is unacceptable and illegal,” Hamas
spokesman Sami Abu Zahri said.
Abu Zahri called on groups interested in
delivering aid to Gaza to continue to try to do so by sea until the blockade of
the territory is completely broken.
Israel loosened its blockade after
its May 31 raid on the Turkish Mavi Marmara
cargo ship, which was part of a
six-ship flotilla, resulted in a brawl that killed nine Turkish men, including
one Turkish-American, and wounded seven Israeli troops. Commando raids on the
other five ships ended without incident.
On Friday, Israel announced that
it would return the Mavi Marmara
and three other Turkish ships that took part in
the flotilla, in a move that the Istanbul-based newspaper Hürriyet
Turkish diplomatic sources as saying were “apparently reconciliatory
Turkish-Israeli ties nose-dived following the incident, with
the Turks recalling their ambassador and saying they would only resume normal
diplomatic relations after Israel apologized, paid compensation to the families
of the dead and wounded, and agreed to an international inquiry
Israel has rejected these demands.
of the vessels, a decision taken by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s inner
cabinet, a forum known as the septet, does not include – according to diplomatic
sources – a demand that the Turks make a commitment that these ships won’t be
used in future attempts to break the blockade.
The Turkish Anatolia news
agency quoted Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as saying, during a visit to
Vietnam, “We expect the process of the ships’ return to be completed after
technical preparations are finished within several days.Hürriyet
reported that the decision to release the ships came a day after Israel lifted
an advisory warning its citizens against travel to Turkey, a move that was also
“perceived as a goodwill message.”
Israeli sources, however, said that
the decision to lift the travel advisory was purely a “professional” decision
made by the National Security Council’s counter-terrorism
Meanwhile, three Spanish aid workers said on Friday they had
filed criminal charges against Netanyahu, Barak, the other five members of the
septet and navy commander Adm. Eli Marom.
Laura Arau, David
Segarra and Manuel Tapial presented for consideration by Judge Pablo Ruz of the
National Court an 86-page charge alleging that crimes against humanity were
committed in ordering and overseeing the raid.
A court spokesman said Ruz
would study whether the case had legal merit and issue a decision in a few
Enrique Santiago, a lawyer involved in preparing the charges, said
there was still a possibility the charges could be extended to include other
Israeli officials involved in what he called a “criminal plan and in its
Ruz replaced crusading Judge Baltasar Garzon, who became
world-famous for cross-border justice cases. Garzon was suspended in May for
allegedly overstepping his jurisdiction.
Jerusalem Post staff and news
agencies contributed to this report.