Hamas has condemned an Israeli threat to intercept a Gaza-bound aid convoy as “official piracy,” calling on international organizations to protect the humanitarian aid ships.
"We consider the Israeli threat to these ships as an official piracy,” Ma’an news agency quoted Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri as telling Reuters TV on Thursday.
“The international community should take the responsibility to stop this piracy, and to protect all the ships who express solidarity with the strip,” he urged.
The remarks came a day after the Israeli military said in a statement that its navy forces had completed the necessary preparations to prevent two aid boats from reaching the blockaded Gaza Strip.
The Freedom Waves to Gaza includes the Canadian Tahrir (Liberation) and the Irish Saoirse (Freedom), which are carrying 27 journalists and crew members, along with 30,000 dollars worth of medicine.
The organizers of the flotilla, which departed from a Mediterranean port in Turkey on Wednesday, said they did not publicize their mission to prevent Israel from stopping it.
They said the activists onboard the convoy are unarmed and will defend the flotilla through non-violent means.
On Thursday, Palestinians rallied in Gaza City and the West Bank city of Ramallah to demand protection for the civilian aid convoy.
Activists organized a major attempt to break Israel’s blockade in May 2010, when a civilian aid convoy dubbed Gaza Freedom Flotilla set sail for the besieged Gaza Strip, led by the Turkish Mavi Marmara.
But Israeli naval commandos launched a deadly onslaught against the Flotilla in international waters, killing nine Turkish civilians. Israeli Prime Minister later defended the attack as an act of self-defense.
The move, however, drew international condemnation and sparked a diplomatic row with Turkey, a crisis that culminated in Ankara expelling Israel’s ambassador and suspending military ties with Tel Aviv.
Pro-Palestinian campaigners launched a second blockade-busting effort called the Freedom Flotilla II in July. But their effort was stymied after several ships were suspiciously sabotaged and the final fleet of boats was intercepted before arriving in Gaza.