UN denounces use of Gaza flotillas

Barak says Lebanese Gaza-bound ships will be "stopped at sea."

ehud barak 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
ehud barak 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The UN said Friday that organizations wishing to deliver aid to the Gaza Strip should do so by land and not attempt to break the Israeli blockade of the territory by sea with flotillas, AFP reported.
UN spokesman Martin Nesirky made the statement at a press briefing amid reports that a flotilla of two vessels from Lebanon was planning to leave for Gaza on Friday or Saturday.
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"Our stated preference has been and remains that aid should be delivered by established routes, particularly at a sensitive time in indirect proximity (peace) talks between Palestinians and Israelis," said Nesirky.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Friday that the planned Lebanese flotilla is an “unneccsary provocation” and Israel holds the Lebanese government responsible to prevent the ships from trying to sail to break the Israel-imposed sea blockade on Gaza.
The Israel Navy was on high alert on Friday amid predictions that a flotilla of two vessels from Lebanon were preparing to depart for the Gaza Strip in an effort to break the Israel-imposed sea blockade by the end of the week.
Barak said that if the cargo the ships were carrying was of a humanitarian nature it would be allowed into Gaza via the Ashdod Port and land crossings Israel controls into Gaza.
 “If the ships refuse to accompany the Navy to Ashdod, we will have no choice but to stop it at sea,” Barak said.
Defense officials said that the Navy had deployed ships at sea to stop the Lebanese boats and that teams of 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 and prevent them from sailing into the Gaza Strip. The organizer behind the ships is Yasser Kashlak, a Syrian national of Palestinian origin.
 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.