Navy braces for next flotillas

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

gaza prepares for flotilla 311 (photo credit: AP)
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 onparticipating in these new flotillas think very hard because theycannot know who is on these ships,” he said. “We believe that therewill be groups that will try to cause provocations and repeat whathappened on the Marmara.”
'There are growing signs dozens had terror ties'
In a wide-ranging interview that will appear in Friday’sFrontlines section, Ben-Yehuda defended the Navycommando raid on the Mavi Marmara Turkish passengership 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 onthe ship who had connections with terrorist organizations from aroundthe region and the world,” Ben-Yehuda told the Post.“Some of them were even known to us from past incidents they wereinvolved in.”
Ben-Yehuda said that the nine passengers killed were all Turkish andmembers of the violent group that attacked the navy commandos from theNavy’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 ofterrorists,” he said, adding however that in the final analysis theoperation could be deemed a success.
“No innocent people were killed, only the terrorists,” he said. “Whenyou go into a building that terrorists have taken over and you kill theterrorists, 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 twoother members of the Majlis, the Iranian parliament, would travel toGaza by way of Egypt later this week.
Bighash said that some 200 of the 290 Iranian MPs had wanted to makethe visit, but the three-man team would go instead. He said theEgyptians had expressed a willingness to allow the Iranians to enterGaza through the Rafah crossing.
Iranian MP Mahmoud Ahmadi-Biqash said on Sunday that the Egyptiangovernment has agreed to issue visas to 70 Iranian parliamentarians whohave registered to travel to the Gaza Strip.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.