The IDF is scrambling to face the threats of another "Freedom Flotilla" arriving in Gaza Sunday, security officials revealed – and may have to use force.
As of Sunday morning, the 'Freedom Flotilla III' is comprised of 47 people on 4 boats – Marianne with 18 people, the Rachel with 12 people, Vagoliano with 12 people, and the Vitrio with 9 people. Tens of activists are rumored to be attempting to join; a fifth ship is due to join as well, but as of Sunday morning has not.
A security official explained Saturday night to Walla! News that the IDF is prepared to act with this flotilla as they did in the past – and hinted to the Mavi Marmara incident of 2010, where Shayetet 13 stormed the vessel after the flotilla ignored several demands to stand down.
Israeli authorities discovered the vessel to be carrying no humanitarian aid – in fact, no aid supplies at all – indicating how the true goal of the provocative move was to open Gaza to free naval access, which it has consistently used to smuggle in weapons to be targeted against Israel.
This flotilla has been backed by the European Campaign to Break the Siege on Gaza. Members of the European Parliament, journalists, athletes, artists, as well as radical leftist Israelis will be on board. Arutz Sheva exclusively revealed Thursday that the flotilla is indirectly funded by the French government via a pro-Palestinian NGO. The flotilla set sail from Crete on Saturday.
"We understand that it's not the activists' intention to reach the coast of Gaza and then turn around; this is a provocation," the senior security official stated to the daily.
"The IDF is prepared to stop the vessel, with all the consequences that may entail," he warned, adding that backup navy vessels could be employed if needed.
Other senior security officials estimate that, despite the Marmara incident, this flotilla is not comprised of activists who will fight back violently. If so, they say, the plan would be "very simple."
"There would be an official request to the IDF for the Captain to dock first in Ashdod, and after undergoing a security check, the flotilla would be free to drop off the goods in Gaza," a military official stated. "If the captain refuses, the IDF will be forced to board the vessel and arrests the activists involved."
Officials added that, in the event the flotilla is diverted to the Egyptian al-Arish port, the Egyptian army may proceed similarly.
"We don't know how the Egyptian army operates, but we assume they also see this as a provocation," he said. Egypt has initiated its own crackdown on terrorism, and has its own blockade on Gaza – both by land and by sea.