‘Navy prepared to board flotilla ships if they don’t stop’

The Israel Navy is prepared to intercept and take control of the ships participating in the new flotilla to the Gaza Strip, a senior Navy officer said Tuesday on the anniversary of the IDF operation to stop the Mavi Marmara that ended in the death of nine Turkish nationals.

“We will order the ship to stop, but if they don’t, we are prepared to intercept and board the ship,” a senior officer told reporters.

The flotilla of 15 ships, organized by the Turkish humanitarian organization, IHH – which is outlawed in Israel due to its ties with Hamas, as well as The Free Gaza Movement – is planning to sail to the Gaza Strip in late June.

Read more at JPost.com.

Israel must explore all fronts to stop new flotilla, Netanyahu orders

Israel must continue diplomatic efforts to prevent a new Gaza flotilla, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu met Wednesday with his inner Cabinet, called the Forum of Seven, to discuss ways to thwart the new flotilla, which reportedly has been delayed until after June 12 parliamentary elections in Turkey.

Netanyahu instructed the ministers to continue diplomatic efforts to halt the flotilla, according to a statement issued after the meeting. He also ordered Israeli security forces to prepare to meet the flotilla and enforce Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza.

“The purpose of the blockade is to prevent the smuggling of weapons to terror organizations and prevent attacks on Israel,” the statement said.

The flotilla is being organized by pro-Palestinian groups in Europe and the United States, and by the Turkish IHH organization, an Islamic aid group that sent last year’s flotilla in which nine Turkish activists, including a Turkish-American dual citizen, were killed when Israel’s Navy intercepted one of its ships, the Mavi Marmara.

Some 20 ships, including the Marmara, are scheduled to take part in the new flotilla.

Ynet reported Wednesday that organizers are having a hard time recruiting activists, vessels and crew members for the new flotilla, saying many fear a confrontation with Israeli naval commandoes should their ship be intercepted.

Israeli soldier jailed for stealing from Marmara

An Israeli soldier who stole electronic equipment from an intercepted ship bound for Gaza was sentenced to jail.

The soldier was sentenced under a plea bargain Monday by an Israeli military court to five months in jail. He also was fined and demoted for removing the items from the Mavi Marmara ship, which Israeli commandos boarded on May 31. Violent resistance on the Turkish ship led to the deaths of nine Turkish nationals, including a dual Turkish-American citizen.

The soldier, who also was removed from an officers training course, reportedly stole the items—a laptop computer, camera lenses and a compass—while the ship was docked in the Israeli port at Ashdod.

In court, the soldier expressed remorse for his actions and apologized.

Three other soldiers are to be brought to trial for the looting incident, according to Ynet.

Israel, groups slam flotilla report

Israel and Jewish defense groups slammed a U.N. Human Rights Council report accusing Israel of breaking international law when it intercepted a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.

The report, which was released Sept. 22, called the actions by Israeli naval commandos when they boarded the Turkish-flagged ship the Marmara “disproportionate and brutal.” The commandos “demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence,” it said.

The international body must reject Israel’s version of the May 31 incident, a council panel urged in its report, which called for “prosecution against Israel for willful killing and torture.”

Nine Turkish citizens were killed in the incident, in which one ship in a flotilla of six tried to evade Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the report “biased and distorted.”

Israel’s state inquiry into the flotilla incident began its work in May and reportedly is nearing completion. The panel is headed by retired Supreme Court justice Jacob Turkel.

A separate inquiry by the United Nations was commissioned by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The American Jewish Committee condemned the Human Rights Council report in a statement issued Sept. 22.

“What’s needed now is not an investigation into Israel’s right of self-defense, but one that examines the purpose of the U.N. Human Rights Council,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “With each new reflexive attack on Israel, including this latest shameful report, the Council makes painfully evident the case for its built-in bias and, consequently, inability to deal with the facts as they are.”

“The fact that this report has been praised by Hamas, whose terrorist regime is the reason for the Gaza blockade, tells you everything you need to know.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called the report “extremely fair and based on solid evidence. We appreciate that. It meets our expectations.”

Turkey repeatedly has called on Israel to formally apologize for the incident and to pay restitution to the families of the victims.