U.S. warns Gaza-bound flotilla of risks

11:11, June 25, 2011      

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The United States warned on Friday that groups seeking to break Israel's maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip are taking "irresponsible and provocative actions" that risk the safety of participants.

"We are concerned that a number of groups are organizing a one year 'anniversary' flotilla to commemorate the incident by sailing from various European ports to Gaza in the near future," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.

"Groups that seek to break Israel's maritime blockade of Gaza are taking irresponsible and provocative actions that risk the safety of their passengers," she warned.

A total of 15 ships and some 1,500 pro-Palestinian activists plan to set sail from European ports later this month, and are expected to approach the Gaza coast in the first week of July. A group of 36 Americans have expressed their intention to join the flotilla in its effort to break Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The move comes one year after a tragic incident that happened on May 31, 2010, when Israeli forces launched a raid on a Gaza- bound aid ship, killing 8 Turks and one U.S. citizen of Turkish origin on board.

The Israeli Navy held an exercise last week, incorporating several special forces units as part of ongoing preparations to prevent the flotilla from reaching the Gaza Strip.

Nuland urged all those seeking to provide aid to the people of Gaza to use the established mechanisms instead, and refrain from participating in actions like the planned flotilla.

Citing recent seizures by Israel and Egypt of advanced military systems, weapons and ammunition bound for Gaza as well as periodic rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza against Israeli civilians, she stressed the vital importance to Israel's security of ensuring that "all cargo bound for Gaza is appropriately screened for illegal arms and dual-use materials."

"The United States will continue to work with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, donors, and the international community to do more and ensure that the needs of the people of Gaza are being met," she added, calling on Hamas, the Islamic group that controls the Gaza Strip but is seen as a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States, to play a "constructive" role by renouncing violence, recognizing Israel's right to exist and accepting past agreements.

The State Department on Wednesday advised all U.S. citizens against joining the Gaza-bound flotilla, citing threats to themselves as well as U.S. interests.

Source: Xinhua
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