Israel Defense Forces and the Israeli Navy are preparing for a so-called "reverse flotilla" expected to leave Gaza on Monday and set out toward Israeli ships enforcing the naval blockade six miles from the Gaza shore. The flotilla is expected to comprise several boats and to include dozens of Palestinian activists as well as Europeans.
The "reverse flotilla," operating with the same goal as past flotillas including the Turkish Mavi Marmara in 2010, but traveling out of Gaza rather than toward it, is the initiative of an organization called Shabaab Al-Intifada, and was originally planned to take place last Friday. The group's Facebook page says the flotilla's mission is to break the Israeli naval blockade on Gaza and that the "reverse flotilla" will include youth from Gaza and those from around the world who support the Palestinian cause but do not belong to a specific political movement. At press time, the Facebook page indicated 400 willing participants, but Israeli security estimates pin the number at only a few dozen.
IDF officials said Sunday night that they had observed preparations for the flotilla in Gaza but it was still difficult to tell what the extent of the demonstration would be. Still, the IDF warned that taking chances is not an option and began preparations and has reviewed standing orders to deal with the planned flotilla.
This is not the first time a reverse flotilla has been attempted, but it is the first time as many organizers and boats have been involved.
In recent years, particularly since the May 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla in which nine activists were killed, Israelis believe that most countries are uninterested in sending flotillas to Gaza. Only a few weeks after the Mavi Marmara incident, a second flotilla was cancelled due to pressure from Israel on the international community.
Since, there have been much smaller flotillas, including in May 2011 when the navy overtook the ships Al-Tahrir and Sirsha, both trying to break through the naval blockade. Neither incident ended in violence. In October 2012, the navy took over the Finnish ship Estelle, which also attempted to pass through the blockade and reach Gaza.