Israel says it will turn away Gaza flotilla


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel says it will block a fleet of nine ships carrying international activists and supplies from reaching the Gaza Strip.

The Freedom Flotilla, organized by the Free Gaza group, left from ports in Ireland, Greece and Turkey last week and is scheduled to arrive Thursday off the coast of Gaza.

Israel has offered to transfer the humanitarian aid, including food, clothing and construction materials, to Gaza through an approved Israeli port.

"Ships forcing their way into Gaza will do nothing to aid the people there," Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said in a statement issued late Monday. "Existing land crossings are more than capable of meeting their needs. International aid organizations and the private sector of Gaza ensure that all the necessary food, medicine and clothing are provided to the Strip via Israel."

Palmor said the flotilla organizers "are less interested in bringing in aid than in promoting their radical agenda, playing into the hands of Hamas provocations. While they have wrapped themselves in a humanitarian cloak, they are engaging in political propaganda and not in pro-Palestinian aid."

Some 15,000 tons of supplies enter Gaza each week, according to the Foreign Ministry. 

Five Free Gaza vessels have been allowed to dock in Gaza port in recent years. A ship was turned away last year by Israel’s navy.

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