Hamas and other Gazan factions are preparing to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza, sources told the Al-Quds newspaper last week.
Israel controls the sea entry and exit of all vessels into Gaza. The Jewish state established the blockade in 2007 after Hamas took over the coastal enclave in order to prevent weapons supplies from reaching the Iranian-backed terrorist organization.
The blockade is legal under international law with the United Nations. In a report from 2011 in which the UN reviewed Israel’s response to the Turkish-based flotilla to Gaza in 2010, it noted that “Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza. The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law.”
According to the sources that spoke to Al Quds, Gazans plan to use the “March of Return” as a template for their planned actions. The “March of Return,” which took place from March 2018 to December 2019, saw Gazans protesting violently almost on a weekly basis near the border with southern Israeli communities, with many trying to damage or break through the border fence.
Protestors came equipped with Molotov cocktails and guns while hundreds, if not thousands, of kites and helium balloons were flown into Israel outfitted with containers of burning fuel, setting fire to large swaths of land and destroying thousands of acres of crops.
The news about preparations to break Israel’s naval blockade comes a little more than two weeks after Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, held his first speech in almost a year, which aired on the Qatar-based Al Jazeera Network.
In his speech, transcribed and translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Sinwar spoke about breaking Israel’s naval blockade, making it clear that the planned actions are being orchestrated by Hamas leadership.
“In Gaza, we say loud and clear, and I don't want to talk too much – soon we will begin coordinating with the Jerusalem axis, in order to start the naval navigation route to the Gaza Strip,” Sinwar said. “We will completely shatter the siege, Allah willing. The discussions and consultations about this are well underway. We will [sail] out of Gaza, and return to it, and we will import and export goods, and whoever is not happy about this – we will do this whether they like it or not.”
Only last week, Israel revealed that on Apr. 8, Israeli authorities had managed to stop an attempt to smuggle weapon production parts or materials from the Sinai Peninsula through the Mediterranean Sea to the Gaza Strip. The attempts had been “in full coordination and directed by Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip,” according to Israeli officials.
Three Palestinians were arrested for the smuggling attempt in what the IDF said was a “joint intelligence and operational effort by Israeli Navy forces and the Shin Bet security service, along with Military Intelligence.”
One of the three arrested suspects was Mahmoud Bakr, a senior smuggler who worked with a number of terror groups in the Strip and who was indicted in June 2020 after he was arrested over a similar attempt, according to The Times of Israel. He had been jailed in Israel for a year before being released and returned to Gaza.
“We hit a significant route that was used to transfer components to manufacture weapons for terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip,” said Col. Eli Sukholitsky, commander of the Navy’s Ashdod base. “The IDF works constantly to prevent the intensification of terrorist organizations and their infrastructure.”
Egypt also enforces a naval blockade of Gaza. On Wednesday, a Gaza fisherman was moderately injured after being shot by the Egyptian Navy off the coast of the southern part of the Gaza Strip.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.