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Two Iranian Aid Ships on their Way to Gaza, Israelis Announce Using Force to Prevent them

Iran Does Not Plan To Escort Solidarity Ship

Tuesday June 15, 2010 08:40 by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies

Deputy Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Hussein Salami, stated that the Corps has no plans to escort the Gaza-bound solidarity ships heading from Tehran.

The statement is contrary to a previous statement made by an official of the IRGC who said that the Navy is prepared and ready to escort the solidarity ships in order to protect them from a possible Israeli attack.

Iran initially said that after the deadly Israeli attack on the Freedom Flotilla, it would send its navy to escort solidarity ships sailing from Tehran.

In other news, Salami said that Iran is not concerned about the recent sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic and added that Iran has experienced different sorts of sanctions since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

He added that the sanctions will not significantly impact the Iranian economy as the country, according to Salami, does not depend on interaction with any of the major world powers.

Israel Tells Tehran, Beirut Solidarity Ships Will Be Stopped

Tuesday June 15, 2010 10:42 by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies

 The Israeli occupation government sent messages to Iran and Lebanon threatening that it will resort to violence if needed in order to prevent the Iranian and Lebanese solidarity ships from reaching the Gaza coast to deliver humanitarian supplies.

Tel Aviv threatened that the ships would be intercepted in international waters, and that the Navy and the Army will use violence if deemed necessary.

It added that the ships are sailing from what it described as “enemy ports” and heading to “Israel,” and will be stopped at any cost.

Israel is holding talks with Egypt in order to help and stop the ships once they reach the Suez canal.

The Israeli security services and intelligence departments started collecting information about the ships, their cargo and the people onboard.

Senior Israeli military leaders started consultations with Israeli Navy officials in order to determine the strategy of intercepting the ships in an attempt to avoid the same outcome of Israel’s deadly attack on the Turkish solidarity ships.

The Israeli security services claim that the Lebanon-based Hezbollah party is sending a ship filled with women, who are members of Hezbollah and Hamas, in an attempt to embarrass Israel should it attack the ships.

According to Israeli sources, information received by Tel Aviv revealed that, so far, Egypt has not received a request from Iran in order to allow its ships to sail to Gaza.

Israeli Army Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, stated that the Freedom Flotilla, the Iranian ships and other solidarity ships are, are “provoking Israel in the sea, through international media outlets, international courts and different institutions and organizations."

Flotilla: Voyages legal and necessary

Published today, June 15, 2010 12:48

Bethlehem - Ma'an -

Following the declaration by the ICRC that Israel's blockade of Gaza constitutes a violation of international humanitarian law, the Free Gaza Movement declared its efforts to sail to the coastal enclave "legal and necessary."

A statement from the group, released on Tuesday, said humanitarian actors must take up the mantle, as "governments refuse to do so," with sharply worded calls for an end to the Israeli blockade so far amounting to little in the way of action, as Israel has refused to lift the siege or to participate in an international probe of the death of nine Turkish activists aboard the last ships intercepted by the country's navy.

In light of the failure of the international community to secure the right to live in dignity for the people of Gaza, organizers announced that preparations for the Freedom Flotilla Two, while Iran has also announced its intention to sail ships toward Gaza.

According to Israeli reports, two vessels left the Iranian port city of Bandar-Abbas on Sunday, but are not due in the Mediterranean for some time, having first to gain permission from Egypt to cross through the Suez Canal. Al-Jazeera, however, quoted Iran's state news agency Mehr saying the ships were due to sail within the week.

If the ships do approach the Gaza Strip, Israeli officials say they will use force to prevent them from docking. "The navy will operate under the assumption that groups of provocateurs are aboard any future ships that try to break the Israel-imposed sea blockade on the Gaza Strip, " wrote Israel's Jerusalem Post, quoting Deputy Commander of the Navy Rear-Admiral Rani Ben-Yehuda.

On 13 January 2009, Israeli forces prevented an Iranian ship from entering Gaza waters, and according to Al-Jazeera, Egypt also refused permission to the vessel to land in the port of Al-Arish.

Israel calls on EU to prevent citizens from Flotilla participation

Israel's Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Tuesday that officials had "asked EU countries to prevent flotilla vessels from leaving from their ports and to prevent their citizens from taking part," but did not name a source.

The paper said Israel hoped to turn public attention to the "diplomatic front," and added that "All the flotillas aim to take advantage of Israel's diplomatic straits."

The call comes amid unabated international pressure, yet to achieve calls for an end to the siege or for an international probe into the last flotilla deaths, and apparent support for missions to Gaza.

Ahead of the Freedom Flotilla mission, UNRWA Secretary-General John Ging, speaking with a Norwegian newspaper in May, urged the world to send ships to the shores of Gaza, saying "We believe that Israel will not intercept these vessels because the sea is open, and human rights organizations have been successful in similar previous operations proving that breaking the siege of Gaza is possible."

Israeli officials cite an increased variety of goods being allowed into Gaza as progress on the international calls, though leaders in the Strip called the permission of jam and mayonnaise "a joke," while the ICRC and Oxfam both issued extensive statements on Monday calling for an end to the blockade, and the immediate lift on a ban for construction goods and exports, saying "Gazans want jobs, not aid," explaining that a continued reliance on aid will only see conditions in Gaza worsen.

Iranian boats to sail to Gaza with aid supplies

Monday June 14, 2010 17:13 by IMEMC Staff - Agencies

The first of two Iranian ships carrying aid left port on Sunday for the Gaza Strip, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported. The ship is transporting construction material, food and toys for children. The second ship leaves port on Friday.

The Iranian ship comes in response to outrage over the killings on the Gaza Freedom flotilla last May.

This is just one part of the reinvigorated campaign to break the blockade of Gaza by international groups, this move by Iran is seen as controversial given the existing tensions with Israel over Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran says it continues to express only its moral support to Hamas, despite Israeli claims of also supplying weapons to the group.

In the meantime, the family of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier captured in Gaza in 2006, has expressed their concern over a possible policy shift in regard to the blockade of Gaza, Haaretz reports.

In light of the outrage over the attacked aid ships heading to Gaza and talks with Middles East envoy Tony Blair, the Israeli government has agreed in principle to ease the blockade. Any lifting of the blockade will most likely by limited to an updated list of prohibited goods, which would be far shorter than the current one.

This has led to protests from the Shalit family, the family had in the past an agreement with cabinet ministers that any lifting of the blockade would come with the release of their son.

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