‘European ship to Egypt shows flotilla is provocation’

"Miles of smiles" project shows sending supplies to Strip doesn’t have to involve confrontation with navy, defense officials say.

Mavi Marmara in port 311 (R) (photo credit: Reuters)
Mavi Marmara in port 311 (R)
(photo credit: Reuters)
Israel has long argued that the flotilla being organized by the Free Gaza Movement to the Gaza Strip is an unnecessary provocation and that all humanitarian aid could be transferred via land crossings instead.
Earlier this week, a ship from Europe proved just this when it arrived at the El- Arish Port in Egypt, unloaded some 30 tons of medicine, wheelchairs, baby food and 12 ambulances, which then made their way overland to the Rafah crossing, where the consignment was allowed into the Gaza Strip.
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The ship set sail from Venice, Italy, earlier this month as part of a humanitarian aid project called “Miles of Smiles” which brings together close to a dozen different European NGOs. The ship was manned by nine crewmen; an additional 62 European activists flew by plane to Cairo and crossed into Gaza by land.
Israeli defense officials said the “Miles for Smiles” program was proof that the flotilla, which plans to break the Israeliimposed sea blockade over the Gaza Strip later this month, is nothing more than a “provocation.”
“There is no need to try and break the sea blockade over Gaza to get supplies to the Palestinians there – if that is what they really want,” defense officials said.
The transfer of the supplies to the Gaza Strip was jointly coordinated by Egyptian officials and the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip. It was the third such convoy to enter Gaza since 2008; another is expected in the coming months.
In the meantime, the IDF is continuing with its preparations to stop the flotilla, expected to try and break the sea blockade over Gaza in the coming weeks. Despite Turkey’s announcement that the IHH organization which sent the Mavi Marmara last year will not participate, organizers are still moving forward with plans to sail to Gaza.
Last week, the navy held a large exercise which included the participation of commandos from Flotilla 13, who boarded the ships from helicopters and speed boats and employed new techniques such as water cannons, which fired high-pressured water at the decks of the ships during the drill.
Earlier this week, Israeli Navy commander V.-Adm. Eliezer Marom called on the world to take action to stop what he termed a “provocative and hateful” flotilla that is planning to sail to the Gaza Strip later this month.
“Allowing ships to sail to Gaza will enable Hamas, which is a radical terror organization operating under Iran, to arm itself with advanced weaponry and threaten Israel with rockets and missiles,” Marom said.