Gaza flotilla - Reuters - July 1, 2011
The ship "Stefano Chiarini", due to set sail to Gaza from Greece, in Corfu July 1, 2011. Photo by Reuters
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Israel has denied claims it sabotaged ships trying to breach its naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Activists have accused Israel of damaging two ships docked in Turkey and Greece that are part of a flotilla attempting to reach the Palestinian territory with humanitarian aid.

Efforts were further stalled Friday when Greece prevented ships from sailing.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor on Saturday dismissed the sabotage
charges as "ridiculous," calling them "sad conspiracy theories."

The Turkish daily Hurriyet reported on Saturday that an investigation by Turkish police into the alleged sabotaging of an Irish ship set to take part in the flotilla to Gaza revealed that the damage to the ship occurred before it docked in Turkey.

Flotilla organizers have claimed that the ship was docked in Turkey’s territorial waters when the alleged tampering occurred.

Hurriyet reported Turkish diplomats as saying that the investigation revealed that the damage done to the ship had occurred before it docked, and was most likely not caused intentionally.

According to an activist, the engine of the Irish vessel was damaged in such a way that would have caused the ship to sink in the middle of the ocean and cause fatalities.

The flotilla spokesman, Dror Feiler, told Army Radio that he has no proof that Israel was responsible for the damage, but that Israel would do everything in its power to prevent the ships from heading to Gaza.

“I saw the damage and it is clear that it was done in a planned and professional way,” he said. “The Israeli government is the only one that could benefit from this.”

On Monday, the propeller of the Greek-Swedish ship "Juliano" was found broken, and Gaza flotilla organizers said they believed it was deliberate sabotage by Israel. Due to the vandalism, flotilla participants have organized guard duty rosters for each ship that is due to sail for Gaza.

Meanwhile in Greece, the government issued a statement on Friday, saying that the departure of ships with Greek and foreign flags from Greek ports to the maritime area of Gaza has been prohibited. The statement explained that this is in a bid to prevent a breach of Israel’s naval blockade.

The flotilla is set to head toward Gaza a little over a year after Israeli naval commandos intercepted another pro-Palestinian flotilla on its way to Gaza. Nine activists died in the clashes that broke out after commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara ship.