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
Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Development Engineer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading manufacturer of fl...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Operative - Oxfordshire / Worcestershire - OTE £30k

£12000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Field Sales Operative is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders