News / Middle East

US Sharpens Warning on Gaza Flotilla

The United States Friday sharpened its warnings to activists planning a new attempt to break the Israeli naval blockade and deliver relief supplies to Palestinians in the Gaza strip. Nine Turkish activists were killed when Israel forcibly turned back an aid flotilla last year.

Officials here say the United States is making diplomatic appeals to countries around the eastern Mediterranean, including Israel, to try avoid a repeat of the deaths and injuries of last year's flotilla incident.

News reports say several hundred pro-Palestinian activists including a number of U.S. citizens intend to leave Greece in as many as ten private vessels this coming weekend to deliver humanitarian goods to Gaza and commemorate the flotilla effort broken up by Israel on May 31 of last year.

The United States says it supports Israeli efforts to curb the illicit shipment of weapons and other military items to Hamas-controlled Gaza, and says there are safe and legal channels for delivering humanitarian goods that do not challenge the blockade.

At a press event late Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Israel has recently eased restrictions on shipments of goods to Gaza and that the planned effort by the activists is unnecessary.

"We do not believe that the flotilla is a necessary or useful effort to try to assist the people of Gaza," said Clinton.  "Just this week, the Israeli Government approved a significant commitment to housing in Gaza.  There will be construction materials entering Gaza and we think that it's not helpful for there to be flotillas that try to provoke actions by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves."

In a travel warning to would-be flotilla participants earlier this week, the State Department said because of the "dangerous and volatile" security conditions in Gaza, U.S. citizens are advised against travel there by any means including via the sea.

It noted the casualties in last year's incident and said Americans joining in any effort to reach Gaza by sea could also face arrest, prosecution and deportation by Israel.

In a lengthy written statement Friday, the State Department also said that delivering material support to Hamas, which the United States lists as a foreign terrorist organization, could result in prosecution in American courts.

At a news briefing, State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland side-stepped questions about the legality of the Israeli blockade tactics, saying the U.S. interest is in avoiding a confrontation and a repeat of last year's events.

"I think the main point that we were trying to make in the statement was that we've got to use the channels that are safe, the channels that are going to guarantee that the aid gets to where it needs to go, to the people it's intended for, and to discourage, in the strongest terms any actions on the high seas that could result in a conflict," said Nuland.

The flow of everyday materials into Gaza has increased sharply since the fall of the Hosni Mubarak government in Egypt, which had closely controlled the flow of goods through the main crossing point between Egypt and Gaza.

Israel said earlier this week it will allow the United Nations to bring building materials for more than a thousand new housing units and schools in Gaza, though aid groups operating in Gaza say supplies of many key items are still insufficient.

Activists involved in the new flotilla effort say their primary concern is the welfare of the estimated 1.6 million Gaza residents, regardless of their political affiliation.

You May Like

Video Obama: Action on Climate Change 'Economic, Security Imperative'

President spoke to reporters on sidelines of UN Climate Summit outside Paris, where leaders are working to agree on binding measures

IMF Bets on China’s Resolve to Reform

IMF announcement already raising questions about just how much Beijing is committed to such reforms

What Happened When I Landed in Antarctica

Refael Klein chronicles what it's like to visit one of the coldest, most desolate places on Earth

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs