Israel's navy trains for second major Gaza flotilla
Another Gaza flotilla will set sail next month with the Mavi Marmara flagship, which Israeli navy commandos raided last year, killing nine activists in violent clashes.
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The focus has been on riot control measures in hopes of avoiding the need to use force – an option Israel hasn't ruled out, although it says it will be the last resort. "Israeli defense sources said recently that despite addressing flaws in the previous flotilla takeover, there is no alternative to taking over the boats and protesters by force - barring an agreement that would cancel the flotilla," according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.Skip to next paragraph
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Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu warned Israel not to "repeat the same mistake" – use force against the flotilla – this year when the next flotilla sets sail, according to Turkish newspaper The Hurriyet Daily News.
But Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said that IHH was deliberately provoking Israel and setting the stage for a confrontation, making it responsible for any clashes that happen, Israeli newspaper Ynet reports. The activists say that the Mavi Marmara is a "peace boat" and should not be attacked.
Israel's naval blockade on Gaza has been in place since 2007. It prevents Gazan fisherman from going further than three kilometers (about 1.8 miles) from shore, and international ships cannot enter waters within 20 km (about 12.4 miles) of the Gazan shore, according to the Jerusalem Post.
The flotilla's plans have not changed despite Egypt's decision to open the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, which will make it possible for people and goods to move freely between Egypt and Gaza, according to Agence France-Presse.
"While we wholeheartedly welcome the decision of the Egyptian government to regularly operate the Rafah crossing... Israel's unlawful blockade remains in effect," Vangelis Pisias, the Greek coordinator of the initiative, told reporters.
"Israel still prevents Palestinians from using their sea, and controls and severely restricts all goods entering and exiting Gaza. As such, we must continue to challenge this blockade."
Ten thousand people marched in downtown Istanbul on Monday to commemorate the nine killed in the Mavi Marmara raid. Eight of them were Turkish, and one was a Turkish American.