New Gaza-bound flotilla to sail in late May

14:51, April 13, 2011      

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Organizers said the preparations for a second Gaza-bound flotilla are underway and it will set sail in late May, Israeli media reported Tuesday.

Dubbed "Freedom Fleet 2," the flotilla's stated aim is "to break the Gaza siege," organizers said, adding that the flotilla will include around 15 vessels and participants from 50 countries, according to a report by Israeli daily Yedioth Aharonot.

"The Israeli government is again threatening to attack the flotilla. We call upon the governments of participants, the international community and the United Nations not to succumb to Israeli terror," Yedioth quoted the organizers as saying.

They declined to reveal the exact number of ships scheduled to participate and the port from which they will sail.

Representatives of the Turkish human rights organization IHH said Monday it plans to partake in what is being described as a humanitarian mission.

Nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists were killed last May during the Israeli naval commando's raid on the Mavi Marmara, one of a six-vessel flotilla that aimed to break the maritime siege imposed on the coastal enclave.

An IHH official said the group might delay its participation in the upcoming flotilla until after the Turkish elections in June, Israel Radio reported Tuesday.

"The flotilla will eventually set out on its way," an IHH representative told the radio.

Israel has launched feverish diplomatic efforts in recent months in a bid to prevent the new flotilla from setting sail, and to prepare international public opinions in case it would again have to order a military operation to stop it from breaching the blockade of the Gaza coast.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier this month to take measures to stop the flotilla, saying the flotilla's organizers are "radical Islamists" seeking to create a provocation.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry is reportedly pressing governments to discourage the participation of their nationals.

Israel insists that the maritime blockade enforced by its navy is meant to prevent the smuggling of weapons into Hamas-ruled Gaza.

In March, Israeli Special Forces intercepted a German-owned freighter "Victoria" 300 km offshore and found the ship hauling 50 tons of arms.

Israeli officials repeatedly say that any country wishing to transfer humanitarian aid to Gaza can do so via land crossings, where goods can be inspected prior to entering the city.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories ( COGAT), a body supervised by the Israeli Defense Ministry, on Tuesday said it authorized 3,656 trucks carrying humanitarian supplies and over 1,000 trucks ferrying construction materials to enter Gaza during March.

"Despite the dramatic escalation in rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, and in light of the needs of the international community and the civilian population there, it was decided to continue the transfer of goods," COGAT said in a statement.

Israel on Tuesday informed officials at the Gaza crossings of its decision to extend the temporary suspension of goods transport, as a general closure imposed on the enclave entered its seventh day, Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported earlier in the day.

Palestinian officials on Monday warned of an imminent crisis in cooking gas supplies, saying the reserves were rapidly depleting, according to the report.

Source: Xinhua
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