Israel warns media over flotilla

By Time of article published Jun 27, 2011

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JERUSALEM: Israel yesterday threatened to ban international journalists from the country for up to a decade if they join a flotilla planning to breach the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

The warning comes just over a year after a similar mission ended in the deaths of nine Turkish activists in clashes with Israeli naval commandos.

Israel is eager to avoid a repeat of last year’s raid, which drew international condemnations and ultimately forced Israel to loosen a blockade on Hamas-controlled Gaza.

Israel says the blockade is needed to prevent Hamas from smuggling weapons into the territory. It remains unclear when the flotilla will set sail, but organisers have hinted it could be as soon as this week.

In a letter to foreign journalists, the Government Press Office’s director, Oren Helman, called the flotilla “a dangerous provocation organised by Western and Islamic extremist elements to aid Hamas”.

“I would like to make it clear that participation in the flotilla is an intentional violation of Israeli law and is liable to lead to participants being denied entry into Israel for 10 years, to the impoundment of their equipment and additional sanctions,” Helman said. – Sapa-AFP

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