Israel Vows To Block Flotilla From Reaching Gaza This week, boats carrying activists from all over the world — including the U.S. — are setting sail from Athens, Greece, to the Gaza Strip in an attempt to break Israel's naval blockade of the coastal territory. But Israel has warned that the boats will not be allowed to reach Gaza.
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Israel Vows To Block Flotilla From Reaching Gaza

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Israel Vows To Block Flotilla From Reaching Gaza

Israel Vows To Block Flotilla From Reaching Gaza

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

NPR Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports has the story.

LOURDES GARCIA: Israel says it needs to maintain its sea blockade of Gaza to stop arms from being smuggled into the Hamas-controlled territory. Yesterday, Israel's military told reporters that activists from the flotilla are training to kill Israeli soldiers by using chemical agents.

AVITAL LEIBOVICH: We understand very clearly after last year's flotilla that we are not talking about innocent or naive people here. We have a different issue here, which is a provocation, a flotilla. It's nothing about a humanitarian aid whatsoever.

GARCIA: Medea Benjamin is from Washington, D.C., and she's waiting to leave Athens for Gaza.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, it's absolutely absurd. It's using every trick in the book. It's propaganda machine, its economic clout, its political clout.

GARCIA: Israel now contends that there are no shortages in Gaza. The Israeli military chief of staff on Tuesday said, quote, "There's no poverty on the streets of Gaza. They have fancy cars and import televisions and LCD screens from Israel."

(SOUNDBITE OF STREET SOUNDS)

GARCIA: Gaza-based economist Omar Shaban.

OMAR SHABAN: You need to know that Gaza used to import more than 7,000 items before the siege. Now, Israel allowing around 400, 500 items, which is still 10 percent of what we need. Keeping in mind the natural growth of the population, the destruction that was caused by the Israeli war, there is a huge need.

GARCIA: Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA: Unidentified Man #2: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA: Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News.

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