Israeli security officials and the country's foreign ministry have been pressuring the United Nations and some heads of states to stop a planned flotilla from trying to break an Israeli naval blockade on Gaza, Haaretz reports.
The Freedom Flotilla II hopes to reach the Hamas-controlled territory next month, but Israeli military units are likely to intercept it to stop banned goods from reaching Palestinian militants.
A navy commando unit is training for various scenarios, including the possibility of having to again raid a ship that tries to enter Israel's waters by force. Military sources warned that the circumstances of Freedom Flotilla II may be similar to those that of the Mavi Marmara episode of last May.
In that case, approximately 40 extremists tied to the Turkish group IHH were prepared and organized to carry out a violent confrontation with Israel. Commandos were attacked as they tried to board the ship, with some stabbed as passengers tried to take hostages. Nine passengers were killed when the commandos responded with gunfire.
The Islamist IHH group has extensive ties to Hamas, and is under investigation by the U.S. government. IHH is among the leading organizers of Freedom Flotilla II.
On Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, requesting that he try to stop the planned flotilla. The flotilla is being organized by "extremist Islamic elements whose aim is to create a provocation and bring about a conflagration," Netanyahu told Ban. A UN statement said that Ban "stressed as well as that Israel should take meaningful steps to end the closure of Gaza," and that he "hoped the prime minster would act with wisdom and restraint."
Some Israeli officials are considering relaxing the embargo on Gaza, hoping it would render many arguments by flotilla activists moot, Haaretz reports.
Flotilla organizers are seeking protection from the European Union. On Monday, a French leader of the flotilla said that the group will send letters to top EU officials urging them to threaten Israel with economic sanctions if violence occurs.
Organizers said delegates are expected from Algeria, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, the Philippines, Turkey, the United States, Canada, Switzerland, the UK, Italy, France, Ireland and more countries, sailing on approximately 15 boats from a number of ports.