UN envoy says Israel ready to intercept Gaza-bound flotilla 24Jun11 June 25, 2011

Ma’an News Agency -  24 June 2011

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — Israel is prepared to intercept a flotilla seeking to breach Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, the country’s UN ambassador warned Thursday.

“Israel is determined to stop the flotilla,” UN envoy Ron Prosor said, as preparations were underway for about 10 ships to embark later this month to Gaza to protest the longstanding Israeli blockade on the Palestinian territory.

“Israel has the right to self defense. The flotilla has nothing constructive — there is nothing humanitarian” in the shipments, Prosor said, describing the flotilla’s mission as a “provocation.”

The announcement by the Israeli official raised concerns about a repeat of last year’s violence, when eight Turkish nationals and a US national of Turkish origin were shot dead on May 31, 2010, during an Israeli raid on Gaza-bound aid ships.

A group of pro-Palestinian activists, led by several Turkish groups, have said they plan to sail to Gaza this month, in a repeat of the mission they undertook last year.

Israel has strongly urged Turkey to block the flotilla from leaving this time, warning that its forces will take action to prevent activists from arriving in Gaza.

The US State Department this week warned American citizens against taking part in the protest and to avoid all travel to the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the Islamist militant group Hamas, amid warnings that they could face arrest or fall victim to violence.

Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip in 2007 after Hamas took control of the coastal enclave.

Rights agencies have repeatedly stated that the blockade amounts to collective punishment of the 1.6 million Gaza residents.

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