PM orders defense establishment to stop flotilla

Cabinet accepts plan to block upcoming flotilla from reaching Gaza; ministers agree cargo can be unloaded at El-Arish, Ashdod ports.

netanyahu cabinet meeting_311 reuters (photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
netanyahu cabinet meeting_311 reuters
(photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday ordered the defense establishment not to allow any ship to reach Gaza's shores, Israel Radio reported.
Netanahyu made the comments during a meeting of the security cabinet over preparations Israel was taking to deal with a new flotilla expected to set sail for Gaza this week.
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During the meeting, cabinet ministers voted in favor of a Navy plan to prevent the upcoming flotilla from arriving in Gaza and giving the IDF authority to prevent the ships' arrival by any means necessary while trying to avoid casualties.
The ministers agreed that flotilla participants will be allowed unload their cargo in the Egyptian port of El-Arish and at the Ashdod Port, from where they will be transferred on land to Gaza after being checked, according to Israel Radio.
However, ships that will try to continue on to Gaza will be checked, and their participants will be arrested.
Earlier Monday, Israel and Egypt agreed to the arrangement whereby ships taking part in the flotilla could unload cargo at El-Arish.
Monday's cabinet meeting was an extension of a meeting Netanyahu convened Sunday night for briefings from top naval officials and security officials on the flotilla.
The Navy is gearing up to stop the flotilla that plans to run the blockade of the Gaza Strip, amid predictions that violence will be minimal after Turkey’s IHH organization – behind the Mavi Marmara last year – withdrew from the initiative.
According to organizers, a number of the vessels – including the US ship The Audacity of Hope – are to set sail from Greece on Monday or Tuesday and then meet other ships that have already begun their journeys from France and Ireland at a rendezvous spot in the Mediterranean Sea.
Vessels from Italy, Spain and Canada are also participating in the flotilla.
On Sunday, Greek officials blocked some of the ships from setting sail to Gaza and organizers said that they had hired lawyers who will fight the stop-order with the aim of allowing the vessels to leave harbor on Monday or Tuesday.
“We expect the flotilla to set sail later in the week,” a military source said. “We are preparing for various scenarios, from no violence to extreme violence.”
The navy and Military Intelligence are closely tracking the flotilla, as well as reports that a Jordanian ship with close to 200 Palestinian and other Arab activists might join the voyage toward Gaza.
“We are pleased that the Turks are not participating but do not yet know what to expect until we meet the ships at sea,” the military source said.
The navy plans to stop the flotilla far from Gaza, after issuing a warning that the territory is under a sea blockade.
“If the ships continue sailing after being warned, then we will have the right to stop them even if they did not yet enter Gaza’s territorial waters,” a defense official explained.