The Palestinian Hamas movement says Israel’s threat to storm a flotilla of activist aid boats bound for the blockaded Gaza Strip amounts to "Zionist piracy."
"The occupation’s threat to prevent the Freedom Flotilla from arriving in the besieged Gaza Strip is Zionist piracy and a violation of international law," AFP quoted senior Hamas leader Ismail Radwan as saying in a statement on Thursday.
An Israeli official said on Wednesday that if the flotilla did not retreat, the Israeli navy would stop the ships and haul them to the Israeli port of Ashkelon. The activists will be detained and eventually deported to their countries of origin and the supplies will be transferred to Gaza by land, he added.
Radwan responded by describing the threats as a sign of "the terrorist Zionist mentality."
Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists are en rout to Gaza aboard nine ships loaded with 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid and building materials to break Israel’s closure of Gaza’s borders.
Since June 2007, Israel has tightened the noose of its long-standing siege of Gaza with the help of Egypt, which is preventing import of goods into the Palestinian coastal enclave through the Rafah border crossing — the only terminal not in Israel’s control.
Israel, however, claims Gaza’s humanitarian needs are being met, accusing the Freedom Flotilla of being a media stunt.
The Hamas statement said the aid convoy would mean failure of efforts by the Israeli regime to isolate and consequently marginalize the Islamic movement which runs the Gaza Strip.
"The occupation is concerned about these ships … because they grant legitimacy to engagement with the Palestinian government and confirm that the attempts to isolate Hamas have failed," Radwan said.