Defense minister: There was no aid on intercepted Gaza aid ship

Ya’alon says if Palestinians were interested ‘in strawberries, not rockets,’ situation would be different

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, March 10, 2015 (Ohad Zwigenberg, Pool)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, March 10, 2015 (Ohad Zwigenberg, Pool)

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Monday denied the Gaza Strip is mired in a humanitarian crisis, hours after the Israel Navy intercepted a boat that was heading to the coastal enclave in a failed attempt to break the Israeli naval blockade.

“There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” Ya’alon told reporters. “Seven hundred trucks enter the Strip every day.”

The Marianne of Gothenburg ship, the defense minister argued, was just “provocation,” and it was not an honest attempt to help the people living in the Gaza Strip.

“There was no aid on board,” Ya’alon stated.

Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip does not hinder the entrance of aid, Ya’alon said, adding that the purpose of the blockade is to prevent arms-smuggling to Gaza terror organizations.

Pro-Palestinian activists aboard the Marianne as it makes its way toward the Gaza Strip, Sunday June 28, 2015. (Freedom Flotilla III)
Pro-Palestinian activists aboard the Marianne of Gothenburg as it makes its way toward the Gaza Strip, June 28, 2015. (Freedom Flotilla III)

“It’s clear that [the flotilla] was an act of delegitimization against us,” he continued.

Ya’alon clarified his point: “I didn’t say life is easy in Gaza.”

However, the defense minister put the onus of responsibility for the current situation in the Strip on the residents themselves and their leadership, stating that if the Palestinians were more interested “in strawberries and not rockets, the situation would be different.”

The summer 2014 war in the Gaza Strip destroyed or partially damaged tens of thousands of homes, leaving approximately 100,000 Gazans homeless.

Israel has said that more than one million tons of construction material have been allowed into the Gaza Strip since October 2014 through the Kerem Shalom Crossing, which it controls.

Ya’alon’s statement to reporters echoed a letter to the flotilla activists prepared by the Prime Minister’s Office on Sunday.

“There is no blockade on the Gaza Strip,” the letter read, “and you are invited to transfer humanitarian supplies through Israel. Preventing access through the sea is done in accordance with international law, and we even received backing from a committee of the UN secretary-general.

Eastern Gaza City, six months after 2014's Operation Protective Edge (Aaed Tayeh/Flash90)
Eastern Gaza City, six months after 2014’s Operation Protective Edge (Aaed Tayeh/Flash90)

“If human rights really interested you, you wouldn’t sail in solidarity with a terror group that executes Gazans without trial, and uses Gazan children as human shields,” continued the letter.

Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza in 2007 after the Islamist Hamas group wrested control of the Strip in a bloody coup, ousting the Palestinian Authority leadership.

Both countries say the blockade is meant to prevent Hamas, which is committed to the destruction of Israel, from importing weaponry into Gaza. Hamas is avowedly committed to the destruction of Israel.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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