Navy braces for next flotillas

Commander: We'll assume provocateurs on board; Iran ships on way.

June 15, 2010 04:51
2 minute read.
Palestinian flags wave in Gaza port, foreground, a

gaza prepares for flotilla 311. (photo credit: AP)

The navy will operate under the assumption that groups of provocateurs are aboard any future ships that try to break the Israel-imposed sea blockade on the Gaza Strip, Deputy Commander of the Navy Rear-Admiral Rani Ben-Yehuda told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

Two Iranian cargo ships carrying humanitarian aid for Gaza will leave next week, and one of them will be sailing via Istanbul, the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported on Monday. Another flotilla is also expected to soon leave Lebanon for the Gaza Strip.

The announcement quoted Muhammad Ali Nouraee, an aid official, who said one load of cargo will be sent to Turkey, and then shipped to Gaza from Istanbul, while the other will leave from the port of Khorramshahr.

'Intelligence does not indicate weapons on board'

Ben-Yehuda said that while Israel did not have intelligence indicating that the Iranian ships were carrying weaponry, he said that the navy’s assumption would be that provocateurs are onboard.

“I recommend that humanitarian activists who are planning on participating in these new flotillas think very hard because they cannot know who is on these ships,” he said. “We believe that there will be groups that will try to cause provocations and repeat what happened on the Marmara.”

'There are growing signs dozens had terror ties'

In a wide-ranging interview that will appear in Friday’s Frontlines section, Ben-Yehuda defended the Navy commando raid on the Mavi Marmara Turkish passenger ship two weeks ago, which ended with nine dead passengers, all of whom, according to the IDF, were hired mercenaries.

“There are growing signs and proof that there were dozens of people on the ship who had connections with terrorist organizations from around the region and the world,” Ben-Yehuda told the Post. “Some of them were even known to us from past incidents they were involved in.”

Ben-Yehuda said that the nine passengers killed were all Turkish and members of the violent group that attacked the navy commandos from the Navy’s Shayetet 13 (“Flotilla 13”).

The outcome of the operation, Ben-Yehuda said, was not what the Navy had anticipated.

“We expected light resistance but never expected to meet a group of terrorists,” he said, adding however that in the final analysis the operation could be deemed a success.

“No innocent people were killed, only the terrorists,” he said. “When you go into a building that terrorists have taken over and you kill the terrorists, this is also a success.”

In addition, three Iranian parliamentarians are planning to visit Gaza via Egypt, Iranian news agencies reported Monday.

Lawmaker Mahmoud Ahmadi Bighash was quoted as saying that he and two other members of the Majlis, the Iranian parliament, would travel to Gaza by way of Egypt later this week.

Bighash said that some 200 of the 290 Iranian MPs had wanted to make the visit, but the three-man team would go instead. He said the Egyptians had expressed a willingness to allow the Iranians to enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing.

Iranian MP Mahmoud Ahmadi-Biqash said on Sunday that the Egyptian government has agreed to issue visas to 70 Iranian parliamentarians who have registered to travel to the Gaza Strip.

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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