Israel vows to halt flotilla aiming to break blockade

Israeli warships were yesterday on full alert in the Mediterranean to prevent an eight-vessel flotilla carrying hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists and an estimated 10,000 tons of humanitarian supplies reaching the coast of Gaza.

Naval vessels were expected to confront the flotilla of cargo and passenger ships later today with the intention of diverting it to the Israeli port of Ashdod and away from its intended destination of Hamas-controlled Gaza.

The flotilla is the largest attempt yet to circumvent the three-year-old Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

While the Israeli authorities have indicated they want to minimise the risk of violence, Israeli media reported yesterday that they are prepared to take over the vessels by force if they ignore warnings not to cross from international waters into a 20 mile exclusion zone enforced by Israel along Gaza's coast.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, accused the participants of mounting a "cheap publicity stunt" and said that if they had been "really interested in the well-being of the people of Gaza they would have accepted the offers of Egypt or Israel to transfer humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, along with the other 15,000 tons sent every week."

Israel has previously said that if the flotilla agreed to head for the port of Ashdod it would send the aid supplies on to Gaza. Ordinarily, supplies to the Gaza strip are subject to a strict blockade that excludes most commercial goods, although those conditions would not necessarily apply to the flotilla.

But Edward Peck, a retired US diplomat who argued strongly against the 2003 invasion of Iraq, told The Independent from one of the vessels that the purpose of the flotilla was entirely humanitarian. "The boats are unarmed, the passengers are unarmed, and they pose no threat to Israel," he said by satellite phone 10 miles south west of Limassol.

Mr Peck said that one of the vessels, a freighter, had taken on a cargo in Athens of 180 motorised wheelchairs, 150 prefab dwellings and two water purification installations, plus medical supplies. "I have been on several trips to the Middle East to promote a resolution but I wanted to do something tangible instead of just talking," he said. He added he had heard unconfirmed reports that three vessels had mechanical problems.

The Israeli authorities have created a temporary detention centre in Ashdod for arrested passengers. Detainees are likely to face the choice of summary deportation or a trial in Israeli courts.

What's allowed into Gaza...

Fabric Softener: As well as other household and bathroom products, including shampoo and facial scrubs.

Wood: As long as it's intended for use in doors or windows – but not if it's suitable for larger-scale construction.

Canned Foods: Such as beans and meats, although canned fruits are excluded from the category.

...and what the blockade keeps out

Jam: Because it could be used to produce other goods for export. The same applies to fresh meat.

Musical Instruments: Because they are not classed as "basic humanitarian supplies".

Donkeys: And other live animals including cattle and chicks (but chick transportation cartons are permitted).

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Games Developer - HTML5

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Product Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to on-going expansion, this leading provid...

Recruitment Genius: Shift Leaders - Front of House Staff - Full Time and Part Time

£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a family ...

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open