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Israel threatens to punish journalists covering Gaza flotilla

Reports from the flotilla could see journalists banned from Israel for ten years, according to Israeli officials. Meanwhile, Palestine pledges to push for UN recognition of independence.

File photo of the Mavi Marmara, the ship which was stormed by Israeli naval forces last year.
File photo of the Mavi Marmara, the ship which was stormed by Israeli naval forces last year.
Image: AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, File

ISRAEL HAS warned journalists not to join this year’s Gaza flotilla – or face being banned from the country for a decade.

The country says that reports coming from the flotilla could earn the journalists a ban or could result in their equipment being confiscated by Israeli authorities, Haaretz reports.

In a letter to foreign journalists, the Israeli government press office said that the flotilla is illegal and a “dangerous provocation that is being organised by western and Islamic extremist elements to aid Hamas”.

Israel’s defence forces have been ordered to stop the aid ships from reaching Gaza. An Irish ship, the MV Saoirse, is among the flotilla and the Irish Anti-War Movement has called on Tánaiste and Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore to urge the Israeli government to allow the safe passage of the ship to Gaza.

Gilmore urged Israel to show all possible restraint towards the ten ships when he met with the Israeli ambassador Boaz Modai last week. However, Gilmore said: “I cannot advise any Irish national to participate in a venture which potentially brings them into harm’s way through seeking to break a naval blockade.”

Last year, nine activists were killed when Israeli forces stormed ships heading for Gaza.

Palestine’s UN push

Meanwhile, Palestine will press ahead with its efforts to win UN recognition of an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza, in September.

Although the UN General Assembly’s recognition would grant a Palestinian state considerable diplomatic influence, it would not have much legal weight. Only the UN Security Council has the power to add another state to its world body and the US has already signalled its opposition to the move.

Israel has also denounced the efforts, saying that they undermine efforts to negotiate a settlement to the ongoing conflict.

The Washington Post reported at the weekend that the Israeli army had begun taking down a section of its barrier in the West Bank in an area prone to protests against it.

- Additional reporting by the AP

Read: TDs and actors join call to support Irish aid ship’s journey to Gaza >

Read: Minister questions need for Gaza flotilla >

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