Israeli DM: 'Gaza is an Iranian Military Base'

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Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak reminded United Nations officials in New York on Tuesday that the Gaza Strip remains a serious security threat to Israel.

"For Israel, the Gaza Strip today is an Iranian military base three kilometers [about one-and-a-half miles] from the closest Israeli city [Sderot] and 60 kilometers [about 30 miles] from Tel Aviv," Barak said.

"Hamas governs the Gaza Strip forcefully and cruelly suppresses its political opponents," he said.

Barak asked U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to drop his demand for a U.N.-backed international investigation of last month's confrontation aboard the Turkish-owned Mavi Marmara. Barak said Israel's five-member panel, which includes two foreign observers, could be trusted to conduct a thorough investigation.

"We are moving ahead with our independent investigation, which we believe is clearly…reliable, credible and should be allowed to work," he said.

Barak also said groups from abroad that want to send humanitarian aid to Gaza are welcome to bring their cargo to the Ashdod port where it will be unloaded and transported by land.

In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel has every right to prevent Iran from arming the Lebanese-based Hezbollah group in the north and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. 

"The ayatollah's regime in Iran stands behind the Iranian boats," the prime minister said. "Hezbollah stands behind the Lebanese flotilla, even though they are trying to conceal it," he said.

Red Crescent announced Tuesday that "The Children of Gaza Ship," will set sail on Sunday.

According to ISNA, Iran's state-run media, five reporters and five Red Crescent employees will be on board the ship, which will be carrying 1,100 tons of equipment, including 500 tons of medicine and food products.

"The aid to the people of Gaza will continue to be sent," Red Crescent spokesman Abdul Rauf Abibzadeh said. "This is a way of breaking the siege on the innocent people of Gaza and terminating it."

The crew and content of the first Iranian ship, which set sail for Istanbul last Monday, is sponsored by a group calling itself "the Iranian company for the protection of the Palestinian nation."

Iran has not provided any details of its crew, cargo or departure date from Turkey to Israel.

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