Conflict & Justice

Israel sees delays to Gaza flotilla as "positive development"

Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Sunday that Israel considers delays to the departure of an international aid flotilla to Gaza as a "positive development."

Barak said in a statement that Cyprus, Turkey and Greece were all playing a part in preventing the activists from breaching Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, Xinhua reports. 

The minister also credited the work of his own office and his Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in preventing the flotilla gaining access to the coast. 

"What helped is the fact that it is clear to everyone that Gaza is open to all civilian products and that the flotilla is a provocation being exploited by various elements, including Hamas," Barak added.

Meanwhile, organizers of the pro-Palestinian flotilla said Sunday they haven't abandoned their plans to breach Israel's sea blockade of Gaza. The Greek government moved Friday to prevent eight of the flotilla vessels anchored at its ports from leaving Greek waters for Gaza.

The captain of a US ship called Audacity of Hope, which attempted to ignore the restrictions and continue on its journey, was forced to return the vessel to the Greek port of Perama.

Flotilla activist Dimitris Plionis said Sunday: "The ban is there and we have already said that we are still considering to sail. This story is not finished."

The AP reports that Plionis noted the ships were free to sail to places other than Gaza, suggesting they may feign plans to sail to other countries before reaching international waters and turning towards Gaza.

The activists claim that two of the boats, one Irish and one Greek-Swedish-Norwegian, have been sabotaged by Israeli forces to interrupt their plan to sail to Gaza. 

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman dismissed those claims Sunday. Haaretz reports Lieberman said:

The activists are trying to blame someone for their failure – no doubt they have watched too many James Bond films. There is an attempt to evade responsibility for their propaganda, as well as a lack of support from countries around the world.