Israel Navy tracks new Gaza-bound flotilla
Two ships leave Turkey carrying between 20 to 30 pro-Palestinian activists; IDF says plans to intercept vessels, offer them to dock at Ashdod or port in Egypt.
The Israeli Navy is tracking two ships, believed be part of a new flotilla to Gaza, that departed Wednesday from Turkey headed for the Gaza Strip, according to the IDF spokesperson.
The IDF intends to intercept the vessels if they continue on their course.
According to information obtained by security services, the two ships left Turkey after announcing their intentions to sale to Rhodes. There is no information presently that indicates Turkish involvement in the flotilla.
The passengers on the two ships - a small ship named “Al-Tahrir” and a yacht named "the Saoirse" are believed to be activists in two pro-Palestinian organizations from Ireland and Canada.
The Tahrir is carrying twelve Canadians, Americans, Australians, and Palestinians. The fifteen passengers on the second vessel are from Ireland.
According to IDF estimates, judging by the speed of the ships and the conditions at sea, the IDF estimates that the ships will arrive in Gaza between Thursday night and early Friday morning.
The Israeli Navy intends to radio the ships and offer them to dock and unload equipment at the port in Ashdod or in an Egyptian port. A senior defense official said Wednesday that “in any case, we will not let them reach Gaza. The naval blockade is legal and was even recently approved by the Palmer committee. This is an incident that is intended mainly to draw media attention,” he said.
The first Gaza flotilla set sail from Turkey in May 2010. The six-vessel convoy had the intention of breaking through a comprehensive blockade Israel had placed on the coastal territory.
The navy took control of five of the ships without incident, but resistance by activists on the sixth vessel led to clashes that claimed the lives of nine of the boat's passengers, and left dozens of activists and soldiers wounded.
Israel had requested that the flotilla turn off its course, and head for the Israeli port of Ashdod, where the aid it was carrying could be transferred via land to Gaza. This was rejected by the flotilla, leading Israel to dispatch its troops to intercept the ships before they reached Gaza.
The action was condemned internationally, in particular by Turkey, which recalled its ambassador and branded Israel a "terrorist state."
The most recent flotilla attempt in July 2011 did not reach Gaza shores.