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
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory