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Idea of Flotilla for Hamas Begins to Sink

Israel threatens sanctions against journalists taking part in the pro-Hamas flotilla, which already has been whittled down following US pressure.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 6/26/2011, 2:50 PM / Last Update: 6/26/2011, 3:27 PM

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Israel has threatened sanctions against journalists taking part in the pro-Hamas flotilla, which already has been whittled down following American pressure.

The Government Press Office said Sunday that any journalist on one of the ships scheduled to sail Tuesday for Israel will be barred from entering the country for 10 years.

GPO director Oren Helman wrote the foreign journalists that he flotilla is "a dangerous provocation that is being organized by western and Islamic extremist elements to aid Hamas."

He continued, "I would like to make it clear to you and to the media that you represent, that participation in the flotilla is an intentional violation of Israeli law and is liable to lead to participants being denied entry into the State of Israel for 10 years, to the impounding of their equipment and to additional sanctions.”

It was not clear if Israel would take away the credentials of Amira Hass, the Haaretz journalist who once lived in Gaza, now is based near Ramallah and whose articles routinely castigate Israel. Police arrested her two years ago after she sailed to Gaza on a pro-terrorist boat and last year she was arrested again "for violating the law which forbids residence in an enemy state."

She wrote Sunday, “There are about 50 of us, men and women, due to sail on the Tahrir, whose name is a reference to the Cairo square where protests earlier this year led to the downfall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's regime. Several hundred other activists, from about 20 countries, and several dozen journalists are currently preparing to set sail for Gaza.”

Her hopes for a large flotilla, if any, seem to be dwindling. Greece has postponed permission for a ship to sail following a complaint last week challenging the safety of the ship that is to sail from its ports. Cyprus already has banned the planned sailings to Hamas-controlled Gaza, and Turkey effectively blocked the Mavi Marmara ship from sailing from it ports through bureaucratic delays.

The United States has strongly condemned the flotilla effort that is being staged to challenge Israel’s maritime blockade against Hamas. The United Nations has stated there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and all goods and merchandise can be sent to Gaza overland through Egyptian and Israel crossings.

Israel has imposed the blockade to stop the smuggling of weapons, primarily from Iran and Syria, into Gaza. Hass downplayed the reason Sunday, writing, “The new flotilla has been organized by a coalition of organizations, all of which refuse to accept the Israeli argument that the Gaza Strip is no longer besieged and that if there is a siege, it is only because of the arms Hamas has been smuggling into the territory [emphasis added].”

The Netanyahu government launched a strong diplomatic offensive several weeks ago to try to prevent any chance of a repeat of last year’s clash with Turkish-based terror activists aboard the Mavi Marmara. The terror activists brutally assaulted Navy commandos as they reached the deck after rappeling down ropes from a hovering helicopter.

Nine of the terrorists were killed before the commandos were able to take control of the Mavi Marmara. It later was discovered that the boat was not carrying any humanitarian aid, and Israel confiscated videos that proved that the IHH-terror linked activists were planning for an armed confrontation.