Informed Comment http://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Tue, 30 Jun 2015 12:29:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 The Great Wall of Turkey? Ankara imagines DMZ w/ Kurds, ISILhttp://www.juancole.com/2015/06/turkey-ankara-imagines.html http://www.juancole.com/2015/06/turkey-ankara-imagines.html#comments Tue, 30 Jun 2015 04:30:08 +0000 http://www.juancole.com/?p=153363 By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

So I am going to tell you a story about Turkey, Syria and the United States. It may or may not be true. Its details may or may not have happened, though there is reason to think they did. It is a story. The point is to see if the story makes sense of what has appeared in the news but which has not been explained.

The Obama administration decided last summer to begin bombing raids against Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) in Syria, along with some allies such as the UK. Bombing raids like that don’t really amount to anything, though, without some infantry or guerrilla force on the ground to take advantage of them. Moreover, it wasn’t much good to destroy Daesh assets around Raqqa if they could just import more via Turkey through the checkpoint for Raqqa Province, Tel al-Abyad.

Daesh was hungry to control all of Raqqa Province, including the Kurdish canton of Kobane in the far north, which would give them yet another checkpoint crossing with Turkey, for bringing in men and supplies. So on 19 September, 2014, Daesh struck at the city of Kobane, provoking 120,000 panicked Kurds to flee over the border into Turkey.

President Obama called up Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in my story, and said, “Tayyip, we need your help to defend Kobane.”

And Tayyip replied, “Mr. President, if we strengthen the PKK terrorists in Kobane on the border with Turkey, that will be a future security problem for my country when they hook up with the fighters in Qandil in Iraq and start intensive car-bombing of my cities like Diyarbakr in eastern Anatolia.”

[The strongest political force in Kobane is the far-left Democratic Union Party, with its paramilitary, the People’s Protection Units (YPG). Although it is technically a branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which the US and Turkey consider a terrorist organization, it is autonomous and does not have a line of command to the PKK.]

So President Obama goes to Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, and says, Erdogan won’t help fight Daesh in Kobane because he is afraid of the leftist Kurds there. Can you give us some nice, conservative, bourgeois fighters to defend the city?” The US military has strong relationships with the Peshmerga from Iraq War days and knows how to work with them.

And Barzani is happy to oblige. And Erdogan is pressured to acquiesce. So Peshmerga from Iraqi Kurdistan are allowed to pass over Turkish territory to Kobana and help fight off Daesh.

But the reinforcements are not enough and Kobane could still fall. So a t the beginning of this year Obama orders very intensive bombing of Daesh convoys and assets moving toward Kobane, and that, in conjunction with the YPG and Peshmerga guerrillas on the ground, defeats the Daesh assault by late January of 2015.

But Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh have learned something important from Kobane. The Kurds can and will fight if you give them good aerial support, unlike much of the Iraqi army. The successful defense of Kobane gives them an idea. What if you could unite the Kurdish canton of Jazira in the northeast with the Kurdish canton of Kobane, using Kurdish fighters and allied air power? You’d have a solid band of Kurdish control all across northern Syria, depriving Daesh of its border checkpoint, Tel al-Abyad and strangling the movement of reinforcements and resupply from Turkey.

Meanwhile, pleas to Erdogan to use the Turkish military to cut off Daesh have fallen on deaf ears. Erdogan is furious about any strengthening of the Syrian Kurds on his border, but just seems mysteriously unconcerned about having Daesh on the same border. Some charge that he is anti-leftist but soft on Muslim radicalism. Some say that Daesh has cells inside Turkey and has threatened to destroy the country’s tourism industry if the Turkish government does not cooperate.

Obama, Carter and Welsh decide to go ahead with their plan, and let Erdogan suck on it, in late May and early June, to have YPG fighters (and maybe there were some Peshmerga who came over to help) take Tel al-Abyad and hook up with Kobane, cutting Daesh off. They are also careful to include some Sunni Arab auxiliaries, the “Euphrates Volcano” forces, which are presumably the far eastern kernel of a rebuilt Free Syrian Army covertly supported by the US. The plan succeeds!

So Erdogan is absolutely livid. He denounces this development as a future threat to Turkey, even though he had not denounced Daesh as such.

The obvious thing for Daesh to do now is establish a new smuggling route from the Turkish border behind Aleppo down to Raqqa. But that area east and north of Aleppo is controlled by the rebels of whom the US is suspicious of having Jihadi tendencies Army of Conquest (Jaysh al-Fath), a group of fundamentalist Sunni Arab militias closely allied with the Support Front (Jabhat al-Nusra), an al-Qaeda affiliate. So ISIL has to attack the other radical Sunni rebels, which it has done many times before. The US is in the awkward position of bombing Daesh in support of what it fears are radical fundamentalists allied with al-Qaeda. But Washington bites the bullet and does bomb Daesh, and the fundamentalist rebels chase it out of these northern positions in Aleppo province.

So President Obama goes back to Erdogan and says, I want Turkey to block Daesh from infiltrating Syria along the Turkish border from Azaz to Jarabulus, north of Aleppo and to either side. Otherwise we’ll use the Kurds again to accomplish this. We can’t be dependent on al-Qaeda linked forces like this.

The Turks really had not wanted to get involved militarily in Syria, though they were happy to let supplies and men through to the rebels, without inquiring too closely into who exactly the rebels were. But now there was a prospect of a new Syrian-Kurdish state, Rojava, bordering southeastern Turkey. And unlike Iraqi Kurdistan, this state would be ruled by a PKK branch or ally, evoking for Turkish leaders the horrors of the dirty war of the 1980s and 1990s when 30,000 died in eastern Anatolia. (I’m not saying that YPG is necessarily dangerous to Turkey in that way, only that Ankara fears it could whip up secessionist and far left sentiments in Turkey’s southeast).

So on Sunday Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announces that Turkey will build a fence along its border with Turkey and might send troops in to secure a 25-mile strip on the Syrian side, as a buffer zone protecting Turkish territory from the fighting to its south.

Then the Turkish military uses its contacts in the more liberal Turkish press to deny any such invasion plan.

turk_syr

What do the Turkish chiefs of staff propose? They would station troops along the Syrian border between Jarabulus and Azaz, that is, behind Aleppo province, picking up the slack where the Kurdish line at Kobane ends. The would not go in and establish a buffer zone but would secure the border from infiltration and would use artillery and aerial bombardment against any guerrilla group, especially Daesh, that came into the 25-mile deep buffer zone. In short, they would create a DMZ with Daesh and other fundamentalist rebels to the south. This DMZ would have the effect of cutting Daesh off decisively from resupply via Turkey, since the Kurds hold the border territory from Kobane east to Jazira and the Turkish military holds it west from Kobane to Azaz. Likely if this is done, Daesh will be strangled even more quickly than would otherwise be the case, and Turkish-backed groups like Ahrar al-Sham will benefit (it is fundamentalist and tightly intertwined with al-Qaeda, but mainly focused on Idlib and Aleppo provinces).

Davutoglu and Erdogan clearly want the buffer zone to extend east along the border of Syrian Kurdistan (“Rojava”), but the generals appear to be pushing back on this idea.

The generals are using Hurriyet to signal that no new government has been cobbled together yet after the recent elections, and that Davutoglu therefore does not have the sort of popular mandate that would justify him going around invading other countries. They clearly also fear a backlash from Russia, China and Iran if they send troops into Syria with no UN Security Council resolution allowing the use of force in that country, and in the absence of an attack by Daesh on Turkey. That is why they propose a DMZ with artillery at the ready– if Daesh violates it by attacking Turkey, then they would be justified in using deadly force in self-defense.

Turkey has so far escaped most of the severe disruptions of the Syrian war, even though it has a long border with that country. Erdogan and Davutoglu are now bringing it into the fray as a belligerent, with possibly deadly consequences for social peace and its economy.

But it isn’t even clear what if anything will actually be attempted, given military reluctance and the lack of an actual government in Ankara. If anything of this nature is attempted, certainly it will change the dynamics in the region.

So that’s the story.

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

NRT English: “Turkey prepared for every contingency in Syria, PM says”

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2 Israeli Squatters /week injured by Palestinians & 39 Palestinians /week by Israeli Forceshttp://www.juancole.com/2015/06/settlers-injured-palestinians.html http://www.juancole.com/2015/06/settlers-injured-palestinians.html#comments Tue, 30 Jun 2015 04:29:06 +0000 http://www.juancole.com/?p=153369 Ma’an News Agency | – – –

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Three Israeli settlers [later reports say four] were injured in a shooting late Monday near the illegal settlement of Shvut Rachel south of Nablus in the northern West Bank, the Israeli army said.

The army said on their Twitter feed: “Three civilians were injured & are receiving emergency treatment. The assailants fled the scene. Forces are searching the area.”

Separately, Israeli news site Ynet reported that four Israelis had been injured in the attack, including one seriously.

The report said the Israeli settlers were driving north through the occupied West Bank when they came under fire from a car travelling in the other direction.

Ynet published images of a bloody car with a bullet-riddled door.

Palestinian locals told Ma’an that Israeli forces had arrived on the scene and were beginning a search operation.

They added that dozens of soldiers stormed the nearby village of Qaryout and imposed a curfew.

A Ma’an reporter said that Israeli soldiers had set up military checkpoints on the road between the site of the shooting and Nablus, and were firing dozens of flares into the sky.

The shooting comes following a string of “lone-wolf” attacks by Palestinians on Israeli military and civilians in recent months.

Earlier on Monday a Palestinian woman was arrested after she stabbed an Israeli soldier at the 300 checkpoint in Bethlehem, and another Palestinian was shot after stabbing an Israeli border policeman in occupied East Jerusalem on June 21.

An average of two Israeli civilians per week have sustained injuries by Palestinians so far in 2015, with one Israeli killed, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

In the same time period, however, an average of 39 Palestinians have been injured by Israeli forces per week and 13 killed, including two since the beginning of this month.

The number does not include incidents of injury by Israeli settlers on Palestinians in the West Bank.

Via Ma’an News Agency

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Wochit News: “Four Israelis Wounded In Suspected Palestinian West Bank Shooting

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The #SaudiCables reveal how Money Controls Media, Politicians & … MTV?http://www.juancole.com/2015/06/saudicables-controls-politicians.html http://www.juancole.com/2015/06/saudicables-controls-politicians.html#comments Tue, 30 Jun 2015 04:22:28 +0000 http://www.juancole.com/?p=153380 By Mohamed Hassan | ( Global Voices Online) | – –

The half million leaked cables to be released about Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy by WikiLeaks, which have sparked debates across the Gulf’s social media, offer an invaluable insight into the kingdom’s foreign policy.

The information in the leaked cables range from issues with visas being granted by the absolute monarchy to female singers to regional and international policies. Reading the leaks you can reach several conclusions.

A. Saudi Arabia can be pragmatic

One of the cables reveal that the sister of a well-known Shia cleric approached Saudi Arabia for donations. Al-Sadr charity foundation is named after Mosa Al-Sadr, who is the founder of the Lebanese Shia party AMAL, a group closely affiliated with Hizbullah.

Despite the widely used narrative of the Sunni-Shia conflict in the Middle East, the kingdom’s decision was to provide support the foundation with financial support without publicizing it. That indicates that they’re trying to create alliances with ideological rivals. The sectarian divide is more a matter of conflict of interest unlike what a lot of media outlets try to portray.

A letter that says that the Saudi Ambassador in Lebanon received a request from a Shia figure for funds …

B. Foreign policy making is very centralized

The amount of cables addressed to the former Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal is huge. The fact that he was briefed on matters of so little significance shows that he was micro-managing the foreign department.

This cable shows how Al-Faisal asked the Ministry of Information to give him the name of the boy scouts selected for an exchange programme in the United States, a task that is usually assigned to a low-level clerk anywhere else:
Reply to the request by the former foreign minister Saud Al-Faisall to get the name of the selected bpy scouts for the US exchange programme

C. Totalitarianism is an underestimation

Where does state control stop? In the case of the Gulf monarchies, we might need a bit of time to answer such a question. The cables show that state hand can reach even to your personal and family life. This cable shows how a Syrian citizen whose sister is married to a Bahraini judge had a dispute during a phone call with his sister, which led him to be questioned by the Saudi intelligence until he signed a paper saying the dispute was resolved.

A cable shows how a Bahraini Judge ordered the questioning of his brother in-law for a family matter

D. Money is the key to gaining power

The amount of influence Saudi Arabia has can be seen through the amount of financial resources it employs. Money can be used as a way to finance supporters, like in the case of the Lebanese politician Samir Geagea, the leader of the Lebanese Forces (LF), a Christian political party and part of the March 14 Alliance. In the cable below, Geagea calls for financial help from Saudi Arabia to pay for his personal protection:

Samir Geagea asks for Saudi funding

The cables also show that Saudi money is used to finance television channels which share their views and work for their interest, like the Lebanese MTV channel. A cable says the channel requested 20 million US dollars but received only 5 million US dollars with the condition that they provide a plan on how they will guarantee the interest of the kingdom in their coverage.

MTV Lebanon asked for 20 million and received 5 from Saudi on the condition of providing a work plan the guarantees Saudi’s interest. [N.B. The Lebanese MTV is not related to the American one. -Ed.]

Saudi money, according to the cables, is also used to threaten channels that air material the Saudi government doesn’t favour. For instance,this cable reveals that the Saudi ambassador to Cairo scolded Naguib Sawiris, the billionaire owner of ONTV, for hosting Saudi dissident Saad Alfaqih. The cable says Sawairis promised to refrain from doing that in the future and offered to host the Saudi ambassador to refute what Alfaqih said.

What’s even more interesting is how the kingdom is reacting to the leaks. They haven’t tried to refute their authenticity, but an official from the Foreign Ministry has commented, saying: “The leaked document doesn’t contradict the publicized foreign policy that the kingdom adopts.”

Mohamed Hassan is on Twitter @MohamedHasanBH

Via Global Voices Online

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Wochit News: “WikiLeaks Says It’s Leaking Over 500,000 Saudi Documents”

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After NBC says “You’re fired!” for bigotry, crybaby Donald Trump brandishes Lawsuithttp://www.juancole.com/2015/06/bigotry-crybaby-brandishes.html http://www.juancole.com/2015/06/bigotry-crybaby-brandishes.html#comments Tue, 30 Jun 2015 04:19:39 +0000 http://www.juancole.com/?p=153378 Associated Press | (Video Report) | – –

“Donald Trump says he may sue NBC after the network announced it’s ending its business relationship with the mogul and presidential candidate over Trump’s remarks about Mexican immigrants.”

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Tunisians fight backhttp://www.juancole.com/2015/06/tunisians-fight-back.html http://www.juancole.com/2015/06/tunisians-fight-back.html#comments Tue, 30 Jun 2015 04:18:45 +0000 http://www.juancole.com/?p=153374 By Christine Petré | Your Middle East | – –

In an interview with Swedish radio I was asked if there is any support for these radical Islamist ideals among people in Tunisia, and I could honestly respond with a blank no. Tunisians are in all possible ways defying the terrorist attack on Friday, which killed 39 people.

More and more stories reveal how Tunisians tried to stop the killer by creating human shields on the beach and how a builder threw tiles from a roof top screaming “You terrorist, you dog.” And a footage circulating online shows a woman beating one of the suspects whilst he is escorted away by police. 

Tunisians are resilient. Human rights activist Lina Ben Mhenni said shortly after the attack in an interview: “Where there is breath there is hope. As long as there are people who believe in fighting for real change for this country, we have to stand together. We are not giving up.” The rights activist later participated in an anti-terrorism demonstration held in Sousse on the eve of the event. Since then two other demonstrations have been held, in Tunis and Sousse. 

But despite the determination and resilience there is another feeling that is arising as the shock of the country’s bloodiest attack begins to dwindle. Anger. Questions arise, like, how could this happen, again?

The security forces are now facing criticism. The signs were there. After the Bardo attack IS pledged online that they too would come to Tunisia this summer as a counter reaction to the social media campaign by tourists promising to visit the country despite the terrorist threats. There were also promises from IS to intensify its attacks during Ramadan, and it was Friday, the holiest day of the week, prayer day. After the Bardo attack the government promised tightening security measures. Now analysts ask, where were they? The tourist hotspots of Sousse and Hammamet were clear targets. Mazen Cherif, security analyst for the Tunisian Centre for Global Security Studies told Tunisia Live: “Here in Tunisia we still haven’t learned our lesson since the Bardo attacks.” 

Whilst the Bardo attack was considered a one-time event, Friday’s tragedy shows that this new type of terrorism, targeting tourists and foreigners, is here to stay. The Tunisian democratic success story has become a target to radical Islamist groups such as IS. The tourism sector symbolises not only “the Western world” but also the country’s economy as it makes up for about 15 percent of the country’s GDP and is believed to employ about 1 million people. 

As after Bardo, the government promised a security clampdown. Prime Minister Habib Essid presented a twelve point counter-terrorism plan shortly after the attack including the closing of 80 mosques believed to incite violence and army reservists would be deployed to tourist sites.

But where are the measures attacking the root of the problem? In a school in Sidi Bouzid, a place central to the revolution, as well as one of the cities with the highest number of jihadists leaving for Syria, two teachers told me, earlier this year, that they were not allowed to speak about the jihadist phenomenon in the class rooms. It is considered politics, they explained. However, they both agreed that a more open debate would be beneficial. 

We need a commission dealing with radicalisation, a proper investigation into this phenomenon, declared Ennahda Parliament member Sayida Ounissi when we met earlier this year. Last time we spoke, two days before the attack she also called for a more comprehensive strategy. The anti-terrorism law that needs reform was made priority after the Bardo attack, yet Ounissi suspects it will take until the end of the year before it is approved. Even though the law in itself will not do magic, she says, it is an important step that should be given priority. 

At the same time President Beji Caid Essebsi emphasised that Tunisia is part of a global threat and that the country needs all the help it can get. Tunisia has proven to be incapable of dealing with that threat alone. Essebsi has declared that this is an administration of reform, and now is the time to show the country’s comprehensive counter-terrorism commitment. In the meantime, as the small Mediterranean country is entering what possibly is its most challenging post-revolutionary period, we better not abandon Tunisia.

Christine Petré – @christinepetre – is an editor at Your Middle East. You can follow her work at www.christinepetre.com.

Via Your Middle East

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Aljazeera English: “Tunisia holds vigils for those killed on beach”

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Tehran Press on Talks: From “Iran will be US Strategic Ally” to “US Sanctions here to stay”http://www.juancole.com/2015/06/tehran-strategic-sanctions.html http://www.juancole.com/2015/06/tehran-strategic-sanctions.html#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 05:39:31 +0000 http://www.juancole.com/?p=153349 By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The Iranian press has reacted in a whole range of ways to the current round of negotiations at Vienna between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5 + 1) over its civilian nuclear enrichment program.

Moderates and liberals are understandably enthusiastic.

Moderate Daily Arman-e Emruz, Tehran, in Persian 23 Jun 2015, published an interview with Dr. Mehdi Mottaharnia, a political scientist (trans. BBC Monitoring):

“Motahharnia: In my view, within the next decade, Iran and America will be two strategic allies. On the basis of foreign policy logic, in view of its domestic and foreign potentials, Iran should play an effective role in the club of world powers. I believe that if Iran plays her cards well in the field and if she can make good use of her assets, in the future she will be able to turn the G-20 club into the G-21 club, and she will be able to play an influential global role in the second layer behind the G-8 club…”

“After the Lausanne agreement [presumably final agreement], the pressures by political extremists in Iran will be reduced, although they will be making more noise and ballyhoo. All this noise and ballyhoo by political extremists is “escaping forward” [a show of defiance]. The extremists are worried that they may be asked why they did not act rationally at the time when they were in charge and why they raised the cost [of their actions] to the nation.

So Mottaharnia (whose Ph.D. is from the University of Hawaii) sees a nuclear deal as a huge geopolitical shift, allowing the US and Iran to form a new strategic partnership and profoundly weakening the hardliners inside Iran. He went on to suggest that this policy of the Obama administration was intended to outflank China’s New Silk Road initiative.

In contrast, over at Javan, Tehran, on 22 June 2015, Ja’far Takbiri predicted pessimistically that even if a deal is reached on Iran’s enrichment program, the US will retain substantial sanctions on Iran on the pretext that it is supporting “terrorists” like Hizbullah (while ignoring that the Shiite militias supporting Iran are the only hope of defeating ISIL/ Daesh). He covers the long history of US antipathy to the Islamic Republic, from Ronald Reagan backing Iraq’s war on Iran in the 1980s to the recent assassination of several nuclear engineers.

Likewise the conservative Khorasan said “A few people inside [Iran] are beating the drum of ‘deal at any price’ because of their political interests. They even consider the psychological effects of a deal to be more important than the principle of lifting of the sanctions, while, even from the perspective of an external observer, a bad deal will be of no help to the country’s economy; rather, under some circumstances, it may have negative effects for the economy.” (27 June, BBC Monitoring)

The Speaker of the Iranian parliament, Ali Larijani, said on Sunday that the US had already made the key concession, that Iran can enrich for nuclear fuel, and that Washington may as well now be reasonable and stop making more and more demands. (Likely he was referring to US desire to inspect Iranian military bases, which the country’s clerical leader, Ali Khamenei, has said is out of the question. – Islamic Republic of Iran News Network, Tehran, in Persian 0640gmt 28 June 2015

In general, moderates and liberals expect any deal to usher in vast changes in Iran’s economy and diplomacy, repositioning it as a growing Asian economy and a strategic ally of the US. Hard liners, downplay any expectation that loosening US sanctions will necessarily transform the economy, and expect US sanctions and interference in the Iranian experiment to continue even in the unlikely event that a deal is reached.

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Related video:

Reuters: “Iran nuclear talks could extend past deadline”

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Israeli naval forces intercept Gaza Aid flotillahttp://www.juancole.com/2015/06/israeli-intercept-flotilla.html http://www.juancole.com/2015/06/israeli-intercept-flotilla.html#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 04:28:07 +0000 http://www.juancole.com/?p=153338 Update: Israeli forces had already hijacked the lead vessel in the four-ship convoy by early morning on Monday ET.

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli naval forces are preparing to intercept the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla III which is expected to arrive in Gaza on Monday, Israeli media reported Sunday.

The Hebrew-language news source nrg.co.il reported that Israel’s navy will deploy the “Shayetet 13″ naval special forces unit onto the ships if necessary, and if activists on the ships “were violent.”

Activists on board the flotilla sailing towards Gaza to challenge Israel’s blockade of the strip are quickly nearing their destination but expect to be intercepted, an Israeli television journalist with them reported late Sunday.

“We have been at sea for three days and we are at a distance of no more than 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the Gaza Strip,” Channel Two’s Ohad Hemo said in a broadcast from the deck of the Swedish-flagged Marianne of Gothenburg.

“It’s not clear when we’ll arrive. Will we wait for the other three boats that are behind us or try to break through to the Gaza Strip first,” Hemo reported.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an they weren’t able to elaborate on possible preparations being taken by the Israeli naval forces in anticipation for the flotilla’s arrival.

The Freedom Flotilla is the third of its kind to attempt to break the nearly nine-year Israeli blockade of Gaza that has left its 1.8 million residents in what rights organizations have termed a humanitarian crisis.

In May 2010, Israeli forces staged a raid on a six-ship flotilla which ended in bloodshed, claiming the lives of 10 Turkish rights activists.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said last week he believed “a flotilla will not help to address the dire situation in Gaza,” but reiterated his call on Israel to “lift all closures, with due consideration of Israel’s legitimate security concerns.”

The first of four vessels from the Freedom Flotilla III set sail for Gaza from the Greek island of Crete overnight Thursday of last week, carrying 70 rights activists, journalists and politicians, together with a cargo of humanitarian aid, solar panels, and medical aid.

The crew includes Palestinian member of Israeli parliament Basel Ghattas, Tunisia’s former president Moncef Marzouki and at least one European lawmaker.

Hemo said that the passengers on the vessel get twice daily briefings from the organizers on non-violent resistance to the Israeli commandos they expect to board the boat sooner or later.

“We have seen on the sonar an unidentified vessel following us at a distance of about 20 (nautical) miles and the assumption is that it is an (Israeli) naval ship,” he said.

“It is clear to everyone that commandos will board somewhere before entry to Gaza,” he added.

The Israeli government on Sunday published a letter which will be handed to flotilla participants once they are in Israeli hands.

“If and when they reach Israel they will get a nice letter,” foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon told AFP.

“Welcome to Israel!” said a Hebrew-language text of the message seen by AFP which will be given to the activists in English.

“It looks as if you lost your way,” it continues.

“Perhaps you intended to sail to a place not far from here; Syria where (President Bashar) Assad’s regime is every day massacring his people, supported by Iran’s murderous regime.”

AFP contributed to this report.

Via Ma’an News Agency
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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Euronews: “Swedish boat sets off to join flotilla aiming to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza”

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CNN Mistakes Dildo Banner For ISIS Flaghttp://www.juancole.com/2015/06/mistakes-dildo-banner.html http://www.juancole.com/2015/06/mistakes-dildo-banner.html#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 04:25:50 +0000 http://www.juancole.com/?p=153347 AJ+ | (Video Report) | – –

“A CNN reporter saw a sex toy banner at a London Pride event and thought it was an ISIS flag.”

AJ+: “CNN Mistakes Dildo Banner For ISIS Flag”

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