Netanyahu seeks UN help to stop flotilla

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Friday and asked him to stop an international flotilla of ships seeking to break Israel’s Gaza blockade, Netanyahu’s office said.

A statement said Netanyahu told the secretary general that among the organisers of the flotilla, expected to head for the Gaza coast next month, are “extremist Islamic elements whose aim is to creat a provocation and bring about a conflagration”.

The May sailing of about 15 ships with activists from 25 countries on board is intended to mark the first anniversary of an Israeli commando raid against a similar, but smaller, convoy that killed nine Turkish activists, organisers have said.

Netanyahu told Ban that all kinds of goods could now enter Gaza by land, while the strip’s Hamas rulers sought to smuggle in arms by sea.

“Hamas is a terror organisation controlled by Iran and only recently part of the huge effort to arm it and smuggle arms by sea was exposed with the capture of the ‘Victoria’,” the statement quoted him as saying.

The Liberian-flagged Victoria was intercepted by Israeli naval commandos in mid-March as it sailed around 200 nautical miles west of Israel’s coast.

The army said it was carrying about 50 tonnes of weapons concealed in containers holding lentils and cotton. The haul included tens of thousands of rounds of small-arms ammunition, more than 2,200 mortar bombs and six Chinese-made C704 anti-ship missiles.

The shipment also included two missile launchers and an advanced radar system to track targets and guide the missiles.

Israel said the missiles represented an alarming escalation in attempts to arm militant groups in Gaza and accused arch-foe Iran of being behind the shipment. Tehran denied any connection to the incident.

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