One cargo ship full of humanitarian aid has departed from Iran bound for Gaza, with another ship planning to join it by the weekend. The Iranian flotilla, organized by the International Red Crescent Society and funded by private donations, follows an international aid convoy that was attacked by the Israeli navy on its way to Gaza two weeks ago, killing 9 aid workers.This is not the first time that a ship from Iran has tried to break the Israeli siege on Gaza. Last year, in the midst of a 3-week long Israeli assault on Gaza during which 1,400 people were killed, an Iranian ship attempted to enter Gaza from the Mediterranean Sea, but was turned back by the Israeli military while still in international waters.
The Israeli military did not attack the Iranian ship at that time, but has threatened to engage the ship that is currently on its way while the ship is in international waters. This is the same tactic that Israel used against the international aid flotilla of six ships two weeks ago, in which the Israeli navy sent in one quarter of the Israeli navy and boarded the ships using commandos from helicopters.
Despite the fact that this action was in direct violation of the law of the seas, the Israeli government has continued to receive the full support of its strongest ally, the US government. US President Barack Obama has not condemned the attack, and said that he would trust the Israeli government’s internal investigation of the incident, in spite of that government’s poor record of investigating itself.
The U.S. State Department spokesperson for the region, P.J. Crowley, told reporters that the US government is extremely concerned about the international aid ships on their way from the Iranian people to the people of Gaza. He claimed that the Israelis “have, in fact, in the past, intercepted ships that were carrying, you know, weapons and armaments that have been used to threaten the Israeli people.” But Crowley failed to back this claim with evidence, and the Israeli government has not ever presented a case in which it captured ships with weapons bound for Gaza.
Palestinians fear that such statements on the part of the US could be setting the stage for an unnecessary confrontation on the Mediterranean Sea. The Red Crescent Society is an international aid organization similar to the Red Cross in the Muslim world. The ship’s contents have been fully inspected, and the manifest verified. Passengers and crew say that any attempts by the Israeli government to claim that the ship might have weapons on board would be a complete fabrication.