Flotilla Organizers Say No Plan for Harm Soldiers

Posted June 28th, 2011 at 3:50 am (UTC-5)
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An organizer of a flotilla planning to challenge Israel's sea blockade of the Gaza Strip says participants have no intention of harming Israeli soldiers who may be dispatched to stop them.

Dro Feiler told Israel's Army Radio on Tuesday that violence will not be permitted, and said Israel should provide organizers with the names of anyone it suspects of planning to harm soldiers.

Israeli military officials had claimed some activists said they want to kill Israeli soldiers and have connections to the militant Islamist group Hamas.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said Monday new intelligence reports reveal that extremists participating in the flotilla have supplies of what she called “dangerous incendiary chemicals” to use against Israeli forces.

Several hundred pro-Palestinian activists – many from Europe, Canada and the United States – plan to board up to 10 ships for a journey across the Mediterranean Sea to carry humanitarian goods to Gaza. Organizers say they plan to sail within the next few days.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman says diplomatic efforts have limited the number of ships and activists involved in the flotilla. He said Tuesday that many who had initially planned to participate realized there are other ways to provide aid to Gaza.

Organizers of the flotilla have called on Greek authorities to let them depart despite mounting diplomatic pressure from the Israeli government.

In Athens Monday, a loose coalition of activist groups said Greece was putting up “administrative obstacles” in response to pressure from Israel and other countries.

Israel's security cabinet Monday ordered the country's military to prevent the convoy from reaching Gaza but to avoid clashes with activists on board. Senior ministers also instructed Israeli diplomats to continue their efforts to prevent the flotilla from setting sail to the Palestinian territory.

Israel also dropped its threat to ban journalists from the country for 10 years if they were found on the flotilla. The head of the Israeli government press office had said in a letter to journalists that the convoy is organized by Western and Islamic extremists, and that those taking part would be in violation of Israeli law.

Journalists say they should be allowed to cover a legitimate news story.

The flotilla effort will also commemorate the effort broken up by Israel in May of last year.

Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish activists, including one with dual U.S. citizenship, when troops stormed a Turkish vessel that was part of a flotilla trying to break the Gaza blockade.

The Turkish aid organization IHH, which was involved in last year's effort, said several of its activists will join the ships sailing for Gaza. But the group dropped plans to send its own vessel, the Mavi Marmara, again this year.