The Israeli Navy could find itself flanked on both sides by enemy ships if and when it “greets” the Turkish flotilla headed for Gaza – as the PA is also planning to greet it.
The eight or nine ships – depending if the ship from Ireland makes it on time – have already set out on their way, planning to rendezvous somewhere in the Mediterranean before sailing together for Gaza. They claim they are bringing humanitarian aid to blockaded Gaza, despite the fact that “shops all over Gaza are bursting with goods,” as the Financial Times reported on Sunday.
Israel has been playing its cards close to its chest, declining to reveal how it plans to greet or possibly stop the flotilla. The Navy, Israel Police, Prison Service and other bodies have been placed on alert, however.
Sources in the Palestinian Authority say that 100 boats from Gaza will set out towards the flotilla and greet it. Jamal Al-Hudri, head of the Hamas Popular Committee to Fight the Blockade and one of the organizers of the flotilla on the Gaza side, said the boats will fly the flags of the PA and the countries participating in the anti-Israel flotilla. Some of the boats will be reserved for reporters and photographers.
In addition, the Gaza port has been refurbished and deepened to accommodate the international ships – though they may never get there, if Israel has its way.
Hamas first demolished all the illegal buildings in the area, removed the ruins, and paved a 30-meter asphalt pier. Hamas has also repaved some two kilometers of roads in the area of the port and placed a new police station there. The port has been deepened to 6.5 meters, enabling small ships to dock there and shuttle goods to the port from the larger ships, docked further out.
Between 550 and 1000 people from 40 countries are expected to be on the anti-Israel flotilla, which is led by Turkey. Among them are Parliament members, civil rights activists, journalists and Israeli-Arabs.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister has called upon Israel to enable the ships to reach Gaza and “act calmly and not exacerbate the already-high tensions… We don’t want more tensions. We believe that Israel will act with logic towards this civilian initiative.”
Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev confirmed for Israel National News that operational details for the coming days are not being publicized. “These people call themselves human rights activists, but in fact, care absolutely nothing for the human rights of Israelis or Palestinians," he emphasized. "They say absolutely nothing about the ongoing targeting, over the course of years, of innocent Israeli civilians by Hamas in Gaza. They say absolutely nothing about the brutal Hamas regime which is suppressing the people of Gaza, has destroyed the opposition and crushed all independent Palestinian media.
"Our message," Regev continued, "is that they claim to be human rights activisits, but they do the opposite. When they came to Gaza in the past, they rushed to have their photos taken with the leaders of the oppressive Hamas regime..."
Gaza receives its goods via Israel-Gaza crossings, through which 15,000 tons of food enter each week, and also through hundreds of smuggling tunnels leading from Egypt into Gaza. Basic food supplies enter through the crossings, while the Times reports that the tunnels supply “Coca-Cola, Nescafé, Snickers and Heinz ketchup [and also] Korean refrigerators, German food mixers and Chinese air conditioning units… The prices of many smuggled goods have fallen in recent months, thanks to a supply glut that is on striking display” in Gaza.