A defiant Israel downplays international condemnations of its seizure of a Gaza-bound aid convoy, vowing to prevent all aid ships trying to break the Gaza siege.
Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai says Israel will prevent all aid ships from reaching Gaza. Vilnai told Kol Yisrael radio on Tuesday morning,
“We will not let any ships reach Gaza and supply what has become a terrorist base threatening the heart of Israel.”
The remarks came in response to an announcement by organizers of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, saying they were preparing to send two more aid boats to Gaza, despite the tragic ending to their high-profile mission to deliver humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip on monday.
Greta Berlin of the Free Gaza Movement said the next attempt to run the blockade with two more ships would not take place for several days.
“The Rachel Corrie (cargo ship) is currently located off the coast of Italy and the other boat is still being repaired,” she said.
Israel’s Army Radio reported that the MV Rachel Corrie, a converted merchant ship, would reach Gazan waters by Wednesday.
An unnamed Israeli marine lieutenant told the radio in an interview that he expected an easy takeover of the ship, saying the Israeli forces would be “ready” for the Rachel Corrie, Reuters reported.
IDF General Staff Operations Commander Col. Itzik Turjeman told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday that two additional ships of the militant left flotilla are on their way to Gaza. He said they will be stopped as well, hinting that electronic means, or others, might be used.
Asked why the S.S. Marmaris was not physically stopped by the Navy without risking helicopter-borne soldiers rappelling down into a lynch mob, Turjeman said that the Marmaris is too large and heavy to have been physically blocked by navy ships.
MK Tzachi HaNegbi (Kadima), Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, opened the session with these remarks:
“After Operation Cast Lead, the government decided to impose a maritime blockade on Gaza [in accordance with international law governing parties in a state of armed conflict – ed.], and that all cargo headed for Gaza would be checked first in the Ashdod port… This issue is a matter of total consensus in Israel, and the reason is the sense of injustice that we all feel, the cynicism and hypocrisy that typify the attack on the State of Israel, and the sense we all have that the IDF’s operation yesterday was logical and ethical. We left Gaza five years ago, yet for years we have been attacked from Gaza, and our soldier Gilad Shalit is still being held in a dark dungeon in Gaza. We therefore feel that we have the right to act in the way we did.”
HaNegbi added that many questions remain open in terms of the operation, the intelligence that preceded it, and the PR efforts after it, “and we will insist on investigating these matters and receiving answers.”
Arab MK Hanin Zouabi (Balad), a rookie female MK from Nazareth, was on board the ship as well, but was released straight home because of her parliamentary immunity – infuriating some Knesset Members. MK Aryeh Bibi (Kadima) said,
“Our democracy has lost its direction. We’ve reached the point where Arab citizens and MKs do whatever they wish. Zouabi’s parliamentary immunity must be removed and she should be arrested. I’d like to see her try similar protests in Arab countries… let her join the Hamas regime in Gaza.”
MK Danny Danon (Likud) said,
“Zouabi and her Hamas friends boarded this flotilla as shahids [martyrs] who said that they knew that they might die in the course of harming IDF soldiers. Instead of making peace, Zouabi started war on board the ship. Terror activists like her must not be permitted to return to the Knesset.”
Zouabi was recorded shouting for help in English and Hebrew when the IDF boarded the ship on which she sailed.
Israel’s vowing to prevent all aid ships to reach Gaza will again meet sharp criticism across the world, particularly in Turkey and other Muslim nations where a seething anti-Israeli sentiment erupted into angry street rallies.
On Tuesday, Israel announced a decision to hold 480 activists captured on Monday in jail, saying the international campaigners would face prosecution and to expel 48 others. The 480 detainees were being held at a prison in the southern port city of Ashdod, while the other 48 were en route to Ben Gurion airport to be deported. Another 45 activists, most of them Turkish, were being treated in various hospitals. Most of the dead were Turkish and their deaths plunged into crisis the Jewish state’s already fragile relations with Ankara.
Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the seizure of the Gaza Flotilla was “inhumane state terrorism.” But Erdogan has a double standard in judging Israel, as he continues to deny the Turkish genocide of the Armenian people and also recently stepped up its military operations against the Kurdish PKK, while he boosts ties with Islamic terror states as Syria and Iran.
The Israeli Defence Forces blamed activists on the ship for creating the confrontation by attacking its soldiers as they boarded the vessel.
Netanyahu expressed regret at the loss of life but he insisted that the Israeli commandos had “defended themselves from a lynching” at the hands of the activists as they rappelled down from helicopters onto the ships.
Britain, France, Russia and China, all veto-wielding permanent council members, called for Israeli blockade of Gaza to be lifted and for an independent inquiry.
Ambassadors from the 27 European Union countries condemned Israel for using violence against the aid flotilla and demanded an impartial inquiry.