Last month marked the one-year anniversary of the confrontation between Israeli forces and activists when a flotilla attempted to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza on May 31, 2010. The United States deeply regrets the tragic loss of life and injuries suffered among those involved in that incident aboard the Gaza bound ships.
We are concerned that a number of groups are organizing a one year “anniversary” flotilla to commemorate the incident by sailing from various European ports to Gaza in the near future. Groups that seek to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza are taking irresponsible and provocative actions that risk the safety of their passengers. Established and efficient mechanisms exist to transfer humanitarian assistance to Gaza. For example, humanitarian assistance can be delivered at the Israeli port of Ashdod, where cargo can be offloaded, inspected, and transported to Gaza. We urge all those seeking to provide such assistance to the people of Gaza to use these mechanisms, and not to participate in actions like the planned flotilla.
Recent seizures by Israel and Egypt of advanced military systems, weapons, and ammunition bound for terrorist groups in Gaza, as well as periodic rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza against Israeli civilians, highlight the continuing problem of illicit arms smuggling to Gaza. These seizures underscore the vital importance to Israel’s security of ensuring that all cargo bound for Gaza is appropriately screened for illegal arms and dual-use materials.
The United States remains concerned by conditions in Gaza, but notes that the humanitarian situation has significantly improved over the last year, including a marked increase in the range and scope of goods and materials moving into Gaza, an increase in international project activity, and the gradual expansion of exports. The United States will continue to work with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, donors, and the international community to do more and ensure that the needs of the people of Gaza are being met.
We also continue to call on Hamas to play a constructive role by renouncing violence, recognizing Israel’s right to exist, and accepting past agreements. We underscore that delivering or attempting or conspiring to deliver material support or other resources to or for the benefit of a designated foreign terrorist organization, such as Hamas, could violate U.S. civil and criminal statutes and could lead to fines and incarceration.