The Gaza-bound "Freedom Waves" flotilla, which left Turkey's shores on Wednesday is expected to arrive at its destination on Friday, and the Israeli Navy (INF) is set to stop it from violating the Gaza blockade – should it decided to actually breach it.
Freedom Waves is believed to include some 30 activists. The US issued an official warning to American citizens advising them against taking part in the sail. The INF said that barring any other choice, it will stop the vessels at sea.
"US citizens attempting to break Israel's naval blockade of Gaza could face action for violating Israeli and American law," Washington cautioned.
Both Israel and the US view the mission as a dangerous provocation. State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the US was renewing its call to Americans "not to involve themselves in this activity," and warned of possible consequences.
Nuland also said the administration was pleased that Turkey's decision not to send sending naval vessels to accompany the activists, as it vowed to do following the deadly results of 2010 Gaza flotilla. "We've been clear to them that we think that that would be an extremely bad idea," Nuland said.
Provocateurs? Freedom Waves activists (Photo: MCT)
Freedom Waves' organizers said Thursday that the two-vessel convoy was about 100 kilometers from the Strip's shores. "We know that they had to slow down because of the stormy weather.
"They said they prefer reaching Gaza in the daytime, to maximize their media exposure," they said.
An Iranian journalist who is taking part in the sail tweeted on Thursday: "We are now less than 200 kms form Gaza. A raid is possible as early as tonight." He added that the activists expected to be stopped by the INF and towed into the Ashdod Port.
Israel's threats – act of piracy'
Meanwhile, Irish Pro-Palestinian activists have urged their government to demand Israel to guarantee the sail free passage to Gaza.
The activists said that all that Ireland has to do ensure its citizens' safety "is tell Israel that if it wants to maintain good trade and diplomatic ties, it wouldn't dare attack the ships."
A spokesman for the Irish Foreign Ministry said that Dublin was "working to ensure" the events of the Marmara will not happen again.
Meanwhile, Gaza and Ramallah have staged several, low-key support rallies ahead of the sail. Gaza also welcomed the activists: "The Hamas government appreciates the efforts of the two freedom vessels are making to help end the siege on Gaza. We consider Israel's threats to the sail an official act of piracy," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.
As before any flotilla, the Navy is prepared for any scenario. While the IDF believes "Freedom Waves" does not harbor terrorists on board, the military does believe the activists which to create a maritime provocation for the media's sake – much more than they are interested in delivering aid to the Palestinians.
Hassan Shaalan contributed to this report
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