Israel, US, Germany warn relief flotilla not to proceed to Gaza

Photo: Israel, US, Germany warn relief flotilla not to proceed to Gaza / Israel

Israel on Thursday led calls to organizers of a large flotilla not to go ahead with plans to bring relief supplies to Gaza Strip next month, saying that the effort amounts to political provocation, dpa reported.

The flotilla of some 15 ships carrying more than 1,000 people from non-governmental organizations and other groups plan to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza in the second half of May.

It would be the second such attempt to supply the Palestinian territory with essential humanitarian supplies since May. Israeli commandos last year boarded a three-ship flotilla on the high seas and clashed with those aboard the main Turkish ship, resulting in the deaths of nine Turkish nationals.

Israel's UN Ambassador Meron Reuben told a UN Security Council session on the situation in the Middle East that groups and individuals on the planned flotilla "hold many ties to Hamas and other terrorist organizations."

"Numerous participants engaged in the planning of this flotilla have made very troubling statements expressing their willingness to become martyrs in this effort," Reuben said.

Reuben said the organizers aim at "political provocation and not to advance any humanitarian goal."

He said Israel is determined to enforce the naval blockade of Gaza and "stop additional terrorists from infiltrating the area." He also urged the UN and international community to take all necessary measures to prevent the flotilla from occurring.

Ambassador Peter Wittig of Germany said the flotilla has the potential for escalating tensions in the region.

"We call on the organizations involved to find other ways to deliver aid to the people of Gaza," Wittig said.

The United Nations last year opposed the purposes of the flotilla, saying that humanitarian assistance should follow an agreed mechanism to deliver aid to the intended people.

The United States also spoke against the planned second flotilla.

"There are distinct mechanisms to deliver goods to Gaza and there are no justifications to sail directly to Gaza," US Ambassador Susan Rice said, calling on the organizers to follow those mechanisms.

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