The Israeli navy on Thursday prepared for the expected encounter with the Gaza aid flotilla making its way to the Gaza Strip with some 800 people aboard. IDF sources said they were concerned that terrorists may try to use the "Freedom Flotilla" to enter the Strip or smuggle in weapons.
In Ashdod Port, a large tent has been set up complete with air-conditioning, intended to receive flotilla participants. After the navy leads the vessels to the port, the activists are expected to be taken into the tent where they will undergo a procedure similar to that undergone by sailors entering any port.
The process will include security checks, after which each participant will speak with a representative of the Interior Ministry who will propose that the activist sign an undertaking to keep away from Israel. If the participant agrees, he or she will be flown back to their country of origin at Israel's expense. If they refuse the offer, they will be arrested.
They will then undergo medical checks and an Magen David Adom ambulance team will be on hand in case any require hospital treatment. Then they will undergo further medical checks by the Israel Prison Services. From here they will be taken to a detention center in Beersheba.
The computerized reception tent in Ashdod (Photo: Avi Rokah)
Thousands of IDF and government ministry representatives will take part in the operation. Certain distinct groups such as diplomats will be accompanied by representatives of the Foreign Ministry. Food and beverages will be supplied throughout the process.
Authorities are also preparing for the possibility of provocative behavior, which will be handled by Prison Services staff. The process is expected to take just a few hours before mission members are transferred to the airport or detention center.
An IDF spokesman said that the army is prepared to carry out the instructions of the executive branch in preventing the "Freedom Flotilla" from reaching the Gaza Strip. He said the flotilla was a provocation in the guise of a humanitarian act, that there is no shortage of food in Gaza, and that the border was open to any organization or state to transfer goods.
He added that troops instructed to take over the flotilla had been told to carry out their mission with sensitivity and minimum use of force.
"I hope no force is used against our troops," he said, "but it must be remembered that we cannot allow vessels like these, when we don't know who or what is on them, to reach the shores of Gaza, and therefore we will act accordingly."