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Israel Prepares to Stop Planned Gaza Flotilla

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands with naval commandos during his visit to the Atlit naval base near the northern city of Haifa, October 26, 2010 (file photo)

Israel's prime minister says he has instructed his security forces to continue to enforce a naval blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, as activists prepare to send another flotilla to the region.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that he is also pursuing diplomatic efforts to prevent the flotilla from setting sail from Turkey as early as May.

Activists are hoping to deliver supplies directly to Palestinians in Gaza, in defiance of an Israeli blockade. Netanyahu has expressed concern that the ships could deliver weapons to militants.

News reports say the flotilla originally was set to leave Turkey in May, but organizers are considering delaying the departure until after Turkish elections in mid-June.

Relations between Israel and Turkey have been strained since Israel stopped another flotilla last year and Israeli commandos clashed with activists on one of the vessels. Nine Turkish activists were killed and seven Israeli commandos were wounded.

On Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Israel not to attempt to stop the upcoming supply flotilla.

In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, he said Israel should not repeat “the same mistake” it made last May. Davutoglu said no one nation owns the Mediterranean.
Turkey said it had received a request from Israel to help stop a flotilla to Gaza, but the government said it could not stop it.

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