Israeli envoy calls on UN chief to condemn Gaza-bound flotilla

Ron Prosor sends letter to Ban Ki-moon saying boats aiming to challenge Israel’s legal naval blockade are a provocation

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Israeli envoy to the UN Ron Prosor addressing the UN Security Council, November 11, 2014. (Courtesy of the Israeli Mission to the UN)
Israeli envoy to the UN Ron Prosor addressing the UN Security Council, November 11, 2014. (Courtesy of the Israeli Mission to the UN)

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor on Monday called on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to publicly condemn a flotilla that intends to challenge Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The convoy of boats, numbering at least two or three vessels is expected to reach the coast off Gaza later this week, if not intercepted.

“As these boats continue on their course towards Gaza, the need for your unequivocal condemnation of this provocation is as clear as ever,” Prosor urged Ban in a letter. “These kinds of actions are particularly troubling in light of the present turmoil in the Middle East.”

“The international community must send an unambiguous message to the organizers and participants of these provocations that such initiatives only serve to raise tensions in our region.”

“This attempt to challenge Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza holds the potential for dangerous consequences,” Prosor wrote. “The flotilla’s sole purpose is to create provocations that pose security risks, and constitute a breach of international law.”

Israel, he warned “is not interested in confrontation, but is firmly determined to enforce the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.”

The Marianne of Gothenburg, a Scandinavian fishing boat, traveled from Sweden through the waters of Norway, Germany, France, Spain and Portugal before reaching Messina, Italy, last week. The boat was making its way to Crete, Greece, on Sunday, before attempting to breach the blockade and reach Gaza. Along the way it was to meet up with at least two other boats that make up the flotilla.

Prosor noted that the maritime blockade is in line with international law as declared by a UN Secretary-General panel of inquiry in 2010 that, he quoted, found “the naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law.”

The ambassador pointed out that the same report also found the blockade was “designed as one way to prevent weapons reaching Gaza by sea and to prevent such attacks to be launched from land.”

Prosor recalled that further justification comes from the fact that Israel has intercepted ships in the past that were found to be carrying weapons.

“Unfortunately, the maritime blockade has been proven to be necessary multiple times, as terrorist organizations have attempted to use the sea as a conduit for smuggling arms and to perpetrate terrorist attacks on Israeli citizens,” Prosor told Ban in the missive.

He listed several of the more notable incidents in which Israel stopped weapons ships including the SS Francop in 2009 that was carrying 500 tons of munitions, the Victoria in 2011 that had 50 tons, and the KLOS C in March 2013 that had a cargo of “40 M-302 surface to surface rockets, 181 122 mm mortar shells and 400,000 rounds of assault rifle ammunition.”

Prosor said that “as is widely known, there are established mechanisms by which humanitarian assistance can be delivered to the Gaza Strip, including through Israel” and recalled that in May 2011 Ban himself had said that “assistance and goods destined to Gaza should be channeled through legitimate crossings and established channels.”

“There is no humanitarian need for this flotilla,” the envoy asserted. “Nor is there a right to breach a lawful blockade as a right of protest, as clearly stated in the Secretary-General’s report cited above.”

The activists say the vessels are carrying a cargo of solar panels and medical supplies for Gaza residents, who are still recovering from last summer’s conflict, and expect to reach the Strip by the end of the month, unless they are intercepted.

The 2010 UN panel of inquiry was formed after Israeli commandos intercepted the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, the largest ship in a flotilla dispatched to Gaza by the Turkish relief agency Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), and were violently attacked by those on board, with several soldiers seriously injured. Nine Turks died when the commandos opened fire in what Israel said was self-defense, and one more died in hospital last year.

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