State Dept threatens prison for US participants in Gaza aid flotilla 24Jun11 June 26, 2011 -  24 June 2011

Israeli officials have been ratcheting up their rhetoric in demanding that the world unite to stop humanitarian aid from being delivered to the people of the Gaza Strip, calling such attempts an existential threat to Israel and a “deliberate provocation” by the world.

While this hasn’t resulted in European nations or others stopping humanitarian groups from moving forward with the aid, it has shifted the Obama Administration’s position from opposition to open threats.

Now, the US State Department is not only railing against the flotilla as “irresponsible” but is threatening criminal charges against American participants, claiming that the attempt to deliver aid to Gaza amounts to “conspiring to deliver material support” to Hamas and could lead to lengthy prison sentences.

Gaza aid ships have often had a solid American contingent, and an American was among those killed when Israeli troops attacked the Mavi Marmara for attempting to deliver wheelchairs to the strip. Though the administration apparently believes it can invoke terror charges, it is unclear how eager they would be to actually test such a move in open court.

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