Israel wary of new Gaza aid flotilla
Nicosia - Israel's Foreign Minister Avidgor Lieberman on Thursday condemned the international aid flotilla which plans to set sail for the Gaza Strip in June as being intended solely "to harm" his country.
"The real purpose of this flotilla is not to help the people of Gaza and not to bring any real help but to harm the state of Israel," Lieberman said at a news conference in Nicosia with his Cypriot counterpart Marcos Kyprianou.
"It must be clear we will prevent any attempt to smuggle weapons and explosives" into the Palestinian territory, he added.
An upsurge in rocket attacks from Hamas-controlled Gaza and counter-attacks by the Israeli military have only abated since an uneasy and unofficial truce that came onto effect on April 10.
The new convoy had initially planned to leave late May to mark the anniversary of Israel's deadly raid on a flotilla last May 31, but its departure was delayed so as not to coincide with Turkey's elections on June 12.
The Turkish-registered ferry Mavi Marmara of Islamist charity IHH was the admiral ship of the flotilla which Israeli soldiers attacked in international waters, sparking an Israeli-Turkish crisis and international condemnation.
Mavi Marmara in convoy
Salih Bilici, spokesperson for the Islamist charity IHH, told AFP earlier this month that participants in the new flotilla would leave together but he did not disclose a departure point.
A co-ordination committee of the international mission dubbed "Freedom Flotilla II", said in Athens in early April that the convoy would set off from "a country in the Mediterranean".
Bilici said the ferry Mavi Marmara would also be in the new convoy, which will bring together participants from 50 countries in a bid to break Israel's blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza.
"As any other independent state, we will not abide any damage to our independence and our sovereignty," Lieberman said on Thursday.
Israel expressed its "concerns" to Turkey about the plans for the new flotilla earlier this month, Israeli officials said, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked the EU to prevent the new mission.