A public relations clash has broken out over the planned flotilla to Hamas-controlled Gaza. Activists charge that Israel sabotaged a boat at a Greek port and deny IDF accusations that they plan to kill soldiers.
The flotilla, already scaled down following Turkey's and Cyprus’ refusal to cooperate, hoped to set sail from Greece Tuesday, but Voice of Israel government radio said it will be delayed at least several days. One boat is stuck in port because of a broken propeller, and activists blamed Israel for the damage, calling it sabotage.
Israel is in the midst of massive diplomatic and information campaign to scuttle the planned attempt to break the maritime embargo, imposed to hamper Hamas’ efforts to smuggle more weapons into Gaza. The government and military have emphasized that all of the goods and merchandise activists want to bring to Gaza can easily enter the region overland via Egypt or Israeli overland crossings.
Flotilla activists denied on Tuesday reports that they intend to kill soldiers, using chemical weapons. IDF spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovitz asserted, "There are radical elements on board the American boat who have said they want to kill Israeli soldiers. We also know that one of the boats is carrying dangerous incendiary chemicals that these human rights militants want to use against Israeli soldiers.”
Flotilla activist Dror Feiler told Army Radio that the charges of plots to kill are excuses for the IDF to justify violence.
Last year’s flotilla of six ships was marked by a clash on the Mavi Marmara boat, charted by Turkish IHH terror activists, nine of whom were killed by Navy commandoes, who were brutally clubbed, shot at and kidnapped by IHH members until the Navy was able to overcome the attack.
Most of the travelers on the other five boats were an assortment of doves who were unaware that the IHH, declared a terrorist group in some European quarters, brought chain saws aboard in order to cut off metal bars from the ship and used them to attack Navy commandos, who boarded the Mavi Mamara virtually unarmed.
They also were unaware that the same ship, contrary to announced intentions, was not carrying any aid to Gaza, as was discovered after the Navy guided it to port in Israel.
Nonetheless, Feiler said that there cannot possible be any violence from the activists because the passengers have signed a pledge of non-violence. On the other hand, IHH members, whose Mavi Mamara ship was blocked by Turkish officials from leaving port, are planning to join the flotilla on other ships.
"The moderate elements who were planning to join the flotilla... know that for everyone who wants to help people in Gaza, that there is a legal way to do it," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday.
"They want to purposely create a provocation, they are looking for a confrontation, they are looking for blood; they are looking for many images on the TV screens” he said. "No one doubts the intention of those people... But I am sure we will cope with them."