IDF to Turn Back 'Free Gaza' Ships

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Navy to make preparations for turning back the fleet of eight boats planning to deliver cargo to the Gaza Strip next week. The deterrent will require a sizable number of Israeli ships.

Foreign Ministry officials informed ambassadors from Turkey, Greece, Ireland and Sweden that the ships would be stopped at sea before reaching Gaza.

Over the past two years, the Navy has turned back a number of boats dispatched by the Free Gaza movement while also allowing a few to deliver their goods.

Either way, the group continues to label Israeli policies toward Gaza "outrageous, cruel and violent," while failing to note rocket attacks or activities against Israel by Hamas and other Gaza-based terror cells.

According to the most recent posting on the Free Gaza movement's website, a 1200-ton cargo ship, named after the late international activist Rachel Corrie, has set sail from Ireland to meet up with the "eight-vessel Freedom Flotilla" carrying construction material, medical equipment and school supplies.

Corrie died on March 16, 2003, after dropping to her knees in front of an Israeli bulldozer clearing underbrush to uncover bombs near the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip.

While an investigation determined that the driver was unable to see her, the activists, who had defied orders to leave the area, successfully promoted the accident as murder.

Israel, which has continued to deliver supplies to Gaza residents, insists there is no humanitarian crisis there.

Last week the IDF transferred 14,000 tons of fuel, food, medical supplies and equipment, clothing and animal feed to the Strip.

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The Jerusalem Post contributed to this report.

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