Amid lingering condemnations over the May 31 Flotilla attack, Israel’s foreign ministry has advised the army not to stop a new Gaza-bound aid ship in international waters.
The ministry called on the armed forces on Monday to wait until the Libyan aid ship approaches or enters the coastal strip’s territorial waters before making any attempt to stop it, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported.
The Israeli ministry further explained that it was still uncertain whether the ship intends to break the Gaza blockade since its documentation indicates it is headed for al-Arish, Egypt, not Gaza.
"We recommend that any enforcement be carried out only if the blockade is actually breached or at least at maximum proximity to the closure zone, so as to create a clearly justified basis for the action," it said.
The Moldovan-flagged aid vessel Amalthea organized by Libya’s Gaddafi International Charity and Development Association has already set sail from the Greek port of Lavrio with 12 crewmembers and 2,000 tons of relief supplies, and is expected to get near Gaza shore Tuesday night.
Israel’s foreign ministry recalled it had made a similar recommendation over the previous Turkish-organized aid convoy, but was not heeded, according to the Israeli paper.
"As will be recalled, we recommended that action be taken as close as possible to the blockade zone. It was explained that this was operationally impossible, however, certainly in this case, when there is only one ship, this is possible."
The ministry also advised that unofficial statements by the ship’s crew indicating that they do intend to reach Gaza might not be legally sufficient to justify stopping the ship at sea.
The remarks come less than two months after Israeli navy commandos brutally attacked the Gaza Freedom Flotilla on May 31 in international waters, which resulted in the death of nine Turkish activists onboard the civilian aid fleet.
The onslaught sparked a global outrage and drew mounting calls for an international investigation into the Israeli attack and promoted an outcry against the ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Under breaking pressure from the international community Israel acquiesced to ease its land closure of the impoverished Palestinian territory but has kept its naval blockade in place.
It also set up an internal committee in a face-saving move to examine the legality of the lethal operation. The probe, however, is monitored by only two foreign observers who have no say in the procedures or conclusions of the inquiry.