Sunday, June 26, 2011

Israel warns media against boarding Gaza flotilla

Associated Press

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel on Sunday threatened to ban international journalists for up to a decade from the country if they join a flotilla planning to breach the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The warning reflected Israeli jitters about the international flotilla, which comes just over a year after a similar mission ended in the deaths of nine Turkish activists in clashes with Israeli naval commandos.

Israel is eager to avoid a repeat of last year's raid, which drew heavy international condemnations and ultimately forced Israel to loosen a blockade on Hamas-controlled Gaza. Israel says the blockade is needed to prevent Hamas from smuggling weapons into the territory.

It remains unclear when the current flotilla will actually set sail, but organizers have hinted it could be as soon as this week.

In a letter to foreign journalists, the Government Press Office's director, Oren Helman, called the flotilla "a dangerous provocation that is being organized by western and Islamic extremist elements to aid Hamas."

"I would like to make it clear to you and to the media that you represent, that participation in the flotilla is an intentional violation of Israeli law and is liable to lead to participants being denied entry into the State of Israel for 10 years, to the impoundment of their equipment and to additional sanctions," Helman said.

The letter, he added, had been reviewed and approved by Israel's attorney general.
Organizers of the flotilla say the mission is necessary to draw attention to the plight of Gaza's 1.6 million residents. The Israeli blockade has caused heavy damage to Gaza's economy: Unemployment is estimated at close to 50 percent, and the territory still suffers from a shortage of badly needed construction materials.



Israel has long had a strained relationship with the international media. During its invasion of the Gaza Strip 2½ years ago, Israeli-based journalists were prevented from entering the territory, forcing the Supreme Court to order the army to allow reporters in.

Israel imposed a land and naval blockade of Gaza after Hamas, an Iranian-backed group that has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings and other attacks, took control of the coastal strip.
The international uproar over last year's deadly flotilla raid forced Israel to greatly ease the land embargo, but the naval blockade remains intact.

Israel has already said it will block the flotilla this time. Naval officials say they will use different tactics though in hopes of avoiding bloodshed.

Help Us Transmit This Story


  Add to Your Blogger Account
  Put it On Facebook
  Tweet this post
  Print it from your printer
  Email and a collection of other outlets
  Try even more services

No comments:

Post a Comment