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Navy preparing to stop vessels (archives) Photo: AFP
Navy preparing to stop vessels (archives) Photo: AFP
Boats carrying humanitarian aid? Photo: Avi Roccah
Boats carrying humanitarian aid? Photo: Avi Roccah

Number of vessels sailing to Gaza unclear

As organizers of Iranian flotilla spread inconsistent and vague information, Navy preparing to intercept ships under conditions of uncertainty

Ron Ben-Yishai
Published: 06.15.10, 17:35 / Israel News

The recent deadly Navy raid on the Gaza-bound Marmara ship greatly damaged Israel's image in the world, the political echelon continues to insist that all flotillas attempting to reach the Strip must be stopped.


Nonetheless, the preparations for the next Navy operation – which include an examination of different methods – are being held under conditions of uncertainty.


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The decision makers have learned their lessons, and when the picture becomes clear the top seven-minister forum will likely convene and discuss the preparations.


The different flotilla organizers are keeping a low profile and spreading inconsistent and vague information, in an apparent attempt to "put the Navy to sleep" and perhaps try to gain wide media exposure during a surprise collision.


One ship has already left Iran, and the second one is reportedly about to set sail. Or perhaps two ships and a plane? These are only some of the reports regarding the upcoming flotilla, which is organized by the Iranian Red Crescent – an organization used by Iran's authorities in their intelligence activities.


As far as Israel knows, the ship is sailing from a port in Shatt al-Arab and will head south to Bandar-Abbas in the Straits of Hormuz. From there, the Iranian ship is slated to leave for Gaza, but its current location is unclear.


Despite the vagueness, the information and working premise in the defense establishment is that at least one ship has already set sail. It should be noted that Hamas has objected to the presence of members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and hundreds of volunteers onboard.


Lebanon ship could reach Gaza within hours

Israel is particularly concerned by the ship slated to leave from Lebanon due to the short sailing duration. Members of the Breaking the Siege movement can reach the Gaza coast within hours, forcing the Navy to be on a heightened state of alert.


There is no connection between my boats and Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran," promises Palestinian businessman Yasser Kashlak, who has presented two ships slated to sail from Lebanon to Gaza. According to him, more than 50 vessels will take part in "Freedom Flotilla 2".


The first boat, Naji el-Ali, is set to leave Beirut with 25 European activists onboard, including parliament members and some 50 journalists, including humanitarian equipment. The second ship, Mariam, whose passengers will be mostly women, was presented on Sunday.


The "flotilla offensive" is expected to climax at the end of the month of Ramadan, which takes place on October 12, when organizations like Free Gaza and Viva Palestine seek to organize a flotilla of 10 to 15 vessels.


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