Report: Israel, Egypt Agree Gaza Flotilla Can Unload Cargo at El-Arish

Flotilla will be allowed to unload cargo at port of El-Arish in Egypt, where it will be checked and then transferred to Gaza via land, Israel Radio reports.

Israel and Egypt have reached an understanding that the ships taking part in the Gaza flotilla will be allowed to unload their cargo in the Egyptian port of El-Arish, where it will be checked and then transferred to the Gaza Strip via land, Israel Radio reported on Monday.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his inner cabinet that Israel will not allow any ships to breach its naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Mavi Marmara-AP- May 22, 2010

Netanyahu's statement came during a cabinet discussion of the Gaza-bound flotilla that is expected to set sail on Tuesday.

Senior ministers will meet again on Monday to continue discussing the flotilla.

Security officials and Foreign Ministry representatives informed the cabinet that Israel has no information indicating that terrorists or anyone affiliated with a terror group is planning to take part in the flotilla, said a government source. Nonetheless, there may be clashes between Israeli forces and some Arab activists aboard the ships.

Some 10 ships are planning to set sail on Tuesday in an attempt to breach Israel's naval blockade of Gaza.

Some 500 people are expected to be aboard the flotilla, which will include six or seven ships currently docked in Greece; it is unclear when they will sail. The Greek authorities have been asked by Israel and the United States to hold up the flotilla as long as possible. Assuming the ships do sail from Greece, they will meet up with two or three that have already set sail from Spain and France, and continue toward the Gaza coast.

The announcement two weeks ago from the Turkish group IHH that it will not take part in the flotilla has changed the security establishment's views regarding the anticipated resistance. IHH members violently resisted the naval takeover of the Mavi Marmara in the flotilla of May 2010, and nine of them were killed in the clashes. In addition, since the Mavi Marmara won't be part of this flotilla, only smaller ships will be involved, increasing the likelihood that Israel will not have to board them to force them to turn back.

Cabinet ministers were told on Sunday that after IHH announced that the Mavi Marmara would not be in the flotilla, there was less reason for concern about possible violent confrontations.

Government and defense sources said the fact that most, if not all, the flotilla participants will be European peace activists presumably not interested in violence will present a "more difficult public diplomacy challenge," and Israel wants to avoid clashes with the activists.