The leader of a Gaza-bound aid mission said Thursday Israel wanted to arrest the activists and place them in a "concentration camp".
Greta Berlin, one of the organizers of the Free Gaza flotilla, told Ynet that despite a ban imposed by Cyprus, the vessels are on schedule and expect to reach the Strip Saturday morning.
"Our office is in Cyprus, but we will not go in. The meeting point is outside of the country's territorial waters," she said. Earlier, Cyprus announced it had accepted Israel's request to ban the ships taking part in the flotilla from its waters, where they were scheduled to gather after arriving from various countries.
Israel called the move "an ethical deed and a voice of reason". Cyprus was the only state to agree to the request, though Israel had appealed to Turkey, Ireland, Greece, and others.
Meanwhile, Israeli forces have completed preparations for the hundreds of activists scheduled to be brought from their ships to Ashdod port. Jerusalem has announced that those who sign a restraining order will be given a paid ticket back to their home countries, but those who don't may find themselves locked up in a Beersheba jail.
IDF officials expressed concerns that many of the activists are actually terrorists attempting to transfer arms to Hamas.
Departing from Turkey (Photo: freegazaorg)
"They can do whatever they want, but they can't stop us," said Berlin. "There are ships full of civilians who want to break the blockade on Gaza – to make people in Gaza as free as anyone else.
"The people of Gaza are in an actual concentration camp. They can't come in or go out despite having the same rights we all have...We will also be placed in a concentration camp, unfortunately, if we are detained."
Dror Feiler, a former Israeli who currently resides in Sweden, said he and his colleagues had not yet decided what they would do upon meeting Israeli Navy ships, but that they had enough supplies to wait out a few weeks.
"The goal is to use the international law on our side to enter Gaza. If Israel wants to resist, like a pirate state, it can resist. If we are detained, more ships will come in a month or two," he said.
Israel is also preparing for the media blitz certain to follow the flotilla, which many believe will harm the state's already floundering reputation. Foreign Ministry, IDF, and PR spokespersons are preparing interviews for global news agencies in order to explain Israel's position, mainly that the flotilla serves the terror organization ruling Gaza and not its residents.
Public relations officials said Israel is also attempting to expose the true face of the organization behind the flotilla, and the fact that there is no humanitarian crisis in the Strip.
"This is a media-related provocation, and we have made it clear to the organizers that Israel is prepared to convey the supplies to Gaza itself following a security check," a Jerusalem official said.