Israel threatens to punish journalists for covering Gaza flotilla

June 27, 2011

By Kristen Chick, Christian Science Monitor

Hundreds of activists are preparing to set sail for Gazafrom Greece this week in an effort to break the Israeli embargo on the Palestinian territory despite Israel‘s warnings that it will not allow the fleet to reach Gaza and will punish journalists who cover the news from the flotilla.

The event comes a little more than a year after nine Turkish activists were killed when Israeli commandosintercepted a flotilla also attempting to reach Gaza. The international uproar that ensued led Israel to ease the blockade on Gaza, and greatly damaged its relationship with its key strategic ally, Turkey.

Israel is eager to avoid another violent confrontation that would increase international pressure, but it is not expected to back down from its commitment to prevent the ships from reaching Gaza. The country began limiting the flow of goods and people in and out of Gaza in 2006 when Hamas militants captured Israeli soldierGilad Shalit, who is still in captivity. The embargo was tightened when Hamas took over the territory in 2007.

A warning to foreign journalists

On Sunday, Israel warned foreign journalists who sail on the flotilla that it could ban them from entering Israel for up to 10 years and confiscate their equipment, reports Israeli newspaperHaaretz. The warning, in a letter from the Government Press Office, says the flotilla is “a dangerous provocation that is being organized by Western and Islamic extremist elements to aid Hamas.”

Flotilla participants are simulating encounters with the Israeli Navy, practicing for what is likely to happen on the three-day journey to Gaza, wrote Amira Hass, a columnist for the Israeli daily, Haaretz. She’s in Greece, preparing to board the flotilla.

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