(photo credit: Associated Press)
The Israel Navy went on high alert Thursday amid forecasts that a flotilla of
two vessels from Lebanon was preparing to depart for the Gaza Strip in an effort
to break the blockade by the end of the week.
Defense officials said that
the navy had deployed ships at sea to stop the Lebanese vessels and that
commandos from the navy’s Flotilla 13 – known as the Shayetet – were put on
standby in case they would be needed to board the ships to prevent them from
sailing into the Gaza Strip. The organizer of the ships is Syrian national
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Two ships are expected to depart Tripoli on either Friday
or Saturday to try and break the blockade. One of the ships is carrying women
and the other is carrying journalists.
“They want to purposely create a
provocation,” one defense official said. “These are also relatively fast ships
which means that once they leave, they will be near Gaza fairly
The heightened alert in Israel over the possible arrival of the
vessels, according to diplomatic officials, follows comments Kashlak has made in
the Lebanese press over the last few days to the effect that everything is in
place for the flotilla to set sail.
Diplomatic officials, however,
pointed to certain legal problems in Lebanon that have not yet been
such as the Lebanese law prohibiting ships to set sail from Lebanese
“occupied territory,” which in this case also means Gaza.
As such, the
officials said, the ships would have to set sail for another port and
to Gaza. Last month, Cyprus banned vessels heading to Gaza from docking
port and as a result, the ships will need to search for an alternative
reportedly in Turkish Cyprus.
Not only is the navy on heightened alert,
the officials said, but diplomatic messages have been passed through
countries with influence on Lebanon not to allow the flotilla to
has also made clear that it will not let the vessels break the blockade.