IDF Chief Warns on Gaza Flotilla

IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi warns there may be more clashes and casualties if new flotillas try to break Israel's blockade of Gaza by force.

Chana Ya'ar , | updated: 17:49

Israel Navy at flotilla (archive)
Israel Navy at flotilla (archive)
Israel news photo: Flash 90

IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi warned the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday there may be more clashes and casualties if a new flotilla tries to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza.

Libya allegedly plans to send at least one ship – and possibly more – to the region in just such an attempt next month, according to the Palestine Telegraph. A Tripoli-based group calling itself the Libyan Civil Mission to Support the Palestinian People released a statement Tuesday saying it would coordinate the launch of the flotilla – to be dubbed “Jerusalem 5” – together with one to be led by British ex-parliamentarian George Galloway.

The British convoy “Lifeline” will allegedly launch from Britain and sail to Gaza through Latakia and Tripoli, arriving in the Libyan port beginning October 10. Ships will continue to gather in the port until October 15, and are then scheduled to set sail for Gaza on October 17.

The European flotilla allegedly will include dozens of ships carrying passengers from numerous countries, including the United States. 

“This is a challenge for the IDF and for Israel,” Ashkenazi told the MKs. “If we see large ships bound for Gaza, and force is used, then we cannot dismiss the possibility of casualties.”

According to the IDF Chief of Staff, at least four flotillas are being planned, including an all-female effort from Beirut that has run into obstacles in Cyprus. Others include a flotilla allegedly expected to set sail from Syria, and another being planned by Yemen, according to the IDF. 

Ashkenazi also said it is important for the Jewish State to carry out the diplomatic groundwork before the flotillas reach Israel’s sovereign waters. “Diplomatic work is being undertaken by the foreign ministry in order to stop the flotillas before they leave port,” he said. “This is better for Israel, so as not to repeat the images of the Turkish flotilla.”

Enough Probes - Let Troops Do Their Jobs
He also criticized the numerous probes being conducted into the single incident that took place aboard the Turkish-sponsored Mavi Marmara, in which nine armed terror activists were killed after they attacked Israeli navy commandos who boarded the vessel to direct it towards the Ashdod port. The ship was one of six in a flotilla heading to Gaza in an effort to break Israel's blockade of the Hamas terrorist-ruled region on May 31.

“I don’t object to debriefings,” he said, “but we have five inquiries. A negative pattern has been created in which every time our troops return, a commission of inquiry awaits them at the docks or at the border crossings."

“In this profession, which is about managing risks, I would like to see people daring, and taking risks” rather than constantly facing probes for doing their jobs, Ashkenazi said.