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Israel braces for more Gaza-bound flotillas

Wednesday, June 16, 2010 Israel Today Staff

Israel's navy is on heightened alert in anticipation of the arrival of more international aid flotillas determined to break the maritime blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

At least two Iranian cargo ships are believed to have set sail in recent days, one from Iran and the other from Istanbul. Another flotilla is reportedly being prepared in Lebanon.

Israel said it had no intelligence that the Iranian or other ships were carrying illicit arms to Gaza, but would operate under the assumption that violent provocateurs were aboard the ships and board them accordingly.

Israeli officials have suggested that the deaths that occurred when naval commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara ship earlier this month and were confronted by knife-wielding terrorist-aligned mercenaries could have been avoided had the soldiers been properly equipped.

According to some reports, US President Barack Obama insisted the Israelis board the Free Gaza flotilla with paintball guns, allowing the mercenaries to quickly overpower them and necessitating the use of lethal force by the second wave of commandos.

Iran had originally threatened to deploy Revolutionary Guard troops with its aid ships, but reportedly decided against such a move at the last minute.