Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday criticized activists planning to challenge Israel's sea blockade of the Gaza Strip, saying their efforts are neither "necessary or useful" in helping the Palestinian people of Gaza.
A day after the State Department warned Americans against participating in the planned flotilla, Clinton said the flotilla, which Israel has said it will thwart, is not helpful and will only increase tensions.
She noted that Israeli authorities had this week approved new shipments of housing construction material to enter Gaza legally and that the aim of the organizers appeared to be to merely provoke Israel into using its right to defend itself.
"We do not believe the flotilla is a necessary or useful effort to try to assist the people of Gaza," Clinton told reporters at a news conference with the visiting foreign minister of the Philippines. "We think that it's not helpful for there to be flotillas that try to provoke action by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves."
On Wednesday, the State Department specifically discouraged US citizens from taking part in the flotilla, which is planned for later this month. In a new travel warning for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, it said the Gaza coast is "dangerous and volatile" and pointed out that the Israeli navy had stopped previous attempts to enter Gaza by sea, and that's resulted in deaths, injuries and arrests.
A dual US-Turkish citizen was killed in a clash between Israeli forces and activists on board a Gaza-ship last year.
The department said those who participate may face arrest, prosecution and deportation by Israeli authorities, who have also said they will seek to ban anyone attempting to break the blockade from traveling to Israel for 10 years.
A group of 36 US citizens has announced plans to sail aboard a US-flagged vessel in a flotilla to Gaza to challenge the blockade.
Meanwhile Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor presented his credentials to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Thursday.
Speaking to reporters shortly afterwards, Prosor stressed that the future flotilla was unnecessary, and was meant to "promote anagenda of provocation... There is nothing humanitarian about it, and it has nothing to do with Palestinian welfare," he said.
Prosor said there was nothing hindering the transfer of food and goods into Gaza Strip, reiterating the UN's call against the sail.
Israel, he said, was "warning ahead" that the sail could "only spell trouble." He further said he hopes "the international community will help stop the sail. Israel is adamant about stopping the sail. There is no need to introduce unnecessary tension to an already tense region."
Prosor stressed that "Israel has a right to defend itself and prevent the transfer of military equipment. We will see that through in order to prevent the transfer of rockets which will later be fired on Israel."
Yitzhak Benhorin in Washington contributed to this report