- Dec 20, 2006
- Kansas City, MO
- 2006 Acura TL
Photo of the Mavi Marmara which led last year's flotilla, docking at Ashdod.
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2011/06/israel-next-gaza-flotilla-ahoy-kind-of.htmlA year and a bit after the ill-fated interception of the Mavi Marmara that headed last year's flotilla to Gaza, Israel is bracing for another one. This time around, say authorities, they are more prepared, having learned the lessons from operations to public relations and media. (We'll get back to that second point later.)
Israel launched a diplomatic, legal and bureaucratic offensive to prevent the flotilla well in advance and for months has been appealing to governments to block their citizens' efforts to participate, with a certain degree of success. Easing restrictions on goods entering Gaza certainly helped, as has the recent Egyptian decision to open the Raffah crossing, which Israel did not like but quickly recognized as advantageous in this context.
The ships are supposed to rendevous in the Mediterranean and then sail to Gaza but some of the likely candidates in the region are dropping out. Cyprus has announced it will not let the ships in, Greece will let them in but is stalling them with red tape at Israel's request, activists complain. Greece has its own issues this week and will have limited energy to spend on this, one way or the other.
Elsewhere in Europe, delegations met with problems as insurance companies were reluctant to issue policies for the ships and their passengers, after an Israeli legal group, Shurat Hadin, sent letters to the world's leading marine insurance companies advising them they could be held accountable for damages and complicit to violating the law. Other initiatives seek to block satellite communications services to the ships.
The Turkey-based IHH was to be the biggest contingent of the flotilla, its massive passenger ship the largest by far of the dozens of vessels originally slated to sail. Last week the organization announced the ship was staying home.
In recent weeks, the military completed a series of comprehensive drills for intercepting the next flotilla. Netanyahu is determined to uphold the naval blockade, which Israel says aims only to prevent gunrunning to Hamas-ruled Gaza and not against Palestinian civilians. On Monday, the security cabinet approved the operational plan presented by the army.
Israel has reached understandings with Egypt about the ships docking in El Arish and inspecting the cargo before transfer to Gaza by land in case participants decline Israel's invitation to dock at its Ashdod port -- as expected. There's no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, repeat Israeli spokespeople, who call the flotilla a provocation.
Here's a list of the ships: http://ustogaza.org/list-of-boats-in-the-2nd-freedom-flotilla/ (Note the aptly named 'Audacity of Hope' American ship)
Apparently someone cut the propellers of one of the ships, Juliano and the American ship has been stalled at Athens: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Backchannels/2011/0627/Apparent-sabotage-against-Gaza-flotilla
Israel firm in their resolve to prevent flotilla from reaching Gaza coast: http://gulfnews.com/news/region/palestinian-territories/israeli-defence-ministry-told-to-firmly-deal-with-flotilla-1.829209
IDF reports intelligence that flotilla activists plan to use sulfur and kill Israeli soldiers: http://www.jpost.com/Headlines/Article.aspx?id=226827
It was difficult to find one news article that captures overall the situation and what is happening as of today but it appears that the official start of the Freedom Flotilla II is yet to happen due to political other pressures that has hindered participation and the start.
Nonetheless, the Flotilla organizers are determined to make it to Gaza and Israel has vowed in their firmness to defend the Gaza waters. So it will be very interesting to see how this situation develops in the coming next few days. Will we see a repeat of what happened last year? Let's just hope for no bloodshed but I fear that may not be the case.
I will try to keep this top post updated as much as possible. This thread will be as much of a discussion thread as it is a news portal on the situation so any of you with new/interesting information/article are highly encouraged to participate so we can all keep on top of this possibly highly volatile situation.