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Friday, June 17, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

With exercise in Mediterranean, Israeli Navy prepares to intercept flotilla

TEL AVIV — The Israel Navy was preparing for a major exercise that could block attempts to shatter the siege on the Gaza Strip.


The Navy has scheduled an exercise in the Mediterranean Sea for June 22. Military sources said the exercise would focus on interception and boarding of hostile ships and seek to simulate a flotilla of ships destined for the Gaza Strip, Middle East Newsline reported.

"This exercise will be key in stopping any flotilla to Gaza," a military source said.

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The exercise was planned in wake of the bloody naval interception of a Turkish-flagged six-ship flotilla in May 2010. Nine people, eight of them Turks, were killed in a battle between naval commandos and at least 100 Islamic resisters on the Mavi Marmara.

"Our assessment is that this flotilla will not bring any lethal material," the source said. "But if they succeed in getting through, the next flotilla will be used to smuggle in weapons or explosives."

The sources said the naval exercise would prepare for the arrival of a larger flotilla to the Gaza Strip. They said up to 22 ships were preparing to meet near the island of Cyprus and then sail toward the Hamas-ruled entity.

The exercise was meant to demonstrate the Navy's skills in intelligence, interception and boarding as well as detention of resisters. The sources said the exercise could also deter organizers from launching the flotilla.

"We have fine combatants who know how to operate in the best possible way," a naval officer said.

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