Netanyahu: Israel Has Every Right to Stop Gaza Flotilla

Thanks leaders of U.S., EU and UN for speaking out against blockade runners

Israel has every right to stop the flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip in an attempt to break Israel's naval blockade of the Hamas-ruled enclave, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday.

"Israel has full right to act against efforts to smuggle missiles, rockets and other weapons to Hamas' terror enclave. Hamas is a ruthless enemy, who maliciously harms our children and holds Gilad Shalit captive, contrary to every international treaty," he said at a graduating ceremony for Israel Air Force pilots.

The flotilla is expected to sail for the Gaza Strip any day now, after its departure was delayed following sabotage of two vessels, which the organizers have blamed on Israel.

Netanyahu thanked the leaders of the United States, the European Union, the UN secretary general and especially Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, for openly speaking against the Gaza-bound flotilla.

"Sometimes we are required not only to ward off our enemies' physical attacks but attacks on our right for self-defense as well," he said.

The Foreign Ministry yesterday sent an urgent telegram to Israel's embassies in Europe and other capitals worldwide, raising the alert levels over the weekend. Ambassadors were asked to keep embassies open over the weekend should the need to receive or send classified wires arise.

Foreign Ministry officials believe the flotilla will be launched this weekend, even without the vessels needing repair.

Some 300 activists are expected to be on board, only 50 of them Arab and Muslim. The ministry's daily reports on the flotilla said there is a potential for violence from Western activists as well, " as they are fired up with hatred for Israel."

Flotilla activists attributed the sabotage of the Irish ship Saoirse to Israel, and its crew believed the damage was intended not to stop the ship from sailing but to grow worse at sea and endanger both the passengers and crew.