Iran Calls Off Gaza Flotilla over 'Israeli Threats'

A planned Iranian flotilla to Gaza will not set sail, organizers blamed “Israeli threats.”

Maayana Miskin, | updated: 22:01

Hamas police wait for flotilla
Hamas police wait for flotilla
Israel news photo: Flash 90
Organizers of an Iranian flotilla to Gaza announced Thursday that they would not set sail due to “Israeli threats.” The flotilla was to launch on Sunday.

Two Iranian ships said they planned to challenge Israel at sea with the help of volunteer marines. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had expressed hope that the marines would “teach Israelis a lesson.”

The cancellation follows reports that Egypt allowed Israeli and American warships to pass through the Suez Canal. The armada's passage was seen as a possible warning to Iran.

Former Iranian ambassador to Syria Hussein, Sheikh al-Islam, said the flotilla had originally been postponed “because of hurdles put up by the Zionist regime regarding the impossibility of getting some of the goods [into Gaza].” The goods will be sent by air or land instead, he said.

Israel allows all goods to enter Gaza through its crossings with the exception of weapons and weapons-making materials. Goods sent by sea are rerouted to the Ashdod port and inspected, then sent to Gaza by land.

While the planned flotilla has been called off, a different Iranian boat is scheduled to set sail from Turkey, avoiding the Suez canal. Its passengers will include four Iranian lawmakers.

Several flotillas have set sail to Gaza in an attempt to break Israel's naval blockade of the Hamas-run region. In late May, Turkish passengers on one boat attacked Israeli commandos as they attempted to reroute the boat to Ashdod, and a skirmish broke out in which nine passengers were killed.

The United States State Department criticized the flotilla phenomenon on Thursday. “Mechanisms exist for the transfer of humanitarian assistance to Gaza... Direct delivery by sea is neither appropriate nor responsible, and certainly not effective, under the circumstances,” officials said.