Daily Israel Report

Netanyahu Orders Navy to Interdict Flotilla

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered Israel's Navy to interdict the Freedom Flotilla 2,
"by any means necessary."
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 6/27/2011, 2:16 PM / Last Update: 6/27/2011, 2:49 PM

IDF

Prime Minister Binyamin ordered Israel's defense establishment Monday to interdict the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla 2, Voice of Israel radio reported.

Netanahyu gave the order during a meeting of his Security Cabinet dedicated to preparations Israel was taking in advance of the new flotilla expected to set sail for Gaza this week. The Cabinet voted in favor of a Navy plan to prevent the upcoming flotilla from arriving in Gaza and granted the IDF authority to prevent the ships' arrival by any means necessary.

Earlier Monday, Israel and Egypt agreed to the arrangement whereby ships taking part in the flotilla could opt to unload cargo at El-Arish. Ships that instead try to force their way to Gaza, however, will be boarded, searched, and have their passengers arrested.

Israel's Navy has been gearing up to stop the flotilla, which says it plans to run the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

“We expect the flotilla to set sail later in the week,” IDF sources said. “We are preparing for various scenarios, from no violence to extreme violence.” 

The Navy says it plans to stop the flotilla far from Gaza, after issuing a warning that the territory is under a sea blockade. “If the ships continue sailing after being warned, then we will have the right to stop them even if they did not yet enter Gaza’s territorial waters,” a navy official explained.

The IDF released a video statement explaining its reasons for insisting all ships headed to Gaza be searched.

Predictions are that violence will be minimal after Turkey’s IHH organization – behind the infamous Mavi Marmara last year – withdrew from the initiative, but a Jordanian vessel carrying members of assorted Islamist groups has opted to stand in as the Arab world's representative in this year's flotilla.

During the 2010 Gaza flotilla self-described peace activists aboard the Mavi Marmara attempted to lynch members of Israel's Shayatet-13, or naval commando, who boarded the ship in accordance with international maritme law. Other members of the unit were forced to open fire to rescue their imperilled comrades killing 9.

According to organizers, a number of the vessels – including The Audacity of Hope, which will fly the U.S. flag – are to set sail from Greece on Monday or Tuesday to rendezvous in the Mediterranean Sea with vessels from France and Ireland.

On Sunday, however, Greek officials blocked some of the ships from setting sail to Gaza. Orrganizers said that they had retained lawyers to will fight the stop-order with the aim of allowing the vessels to leave harbor on schedule.

Vessels from Italy, Spain and Canada are also participating in the flotilla.