ABC's Kirit Radia and Luis Martinez report from Washington D.C.:
There’s concern in Washington today about Iranian ships bound for Gaza. The State Department suggested that their movement is nothing but Iranian provocation with the potential for more violence if Israel tries to stop them like they did the flotilla . The ships claim to be carrying humanitarian aid, construction supplies, and toys for the isolated region.
“But we are focusing our efforts, working to see how we can, you know, through the land borders between Israel and Gaza and Egypt and Gaza, increase the amount of assistance to the people of Gaza,” he added.
Asked if he thought these aid ships were carrying arms for Gaza, Crowley said he didn’t know for sure, but said:
“It remains a very legitimate concern that Israel -- have. They have, in fact, in the past, intercepted ships that were carrying, you know, weapons and armaments that have been used to threaten the Israeli people. But we think through land routes is a much more effective way of increasing the flow of humanitarian assistance while being able to protect Israel's security.”
Crowley’s comments also shed light on US efforts to work with Israel to widen the types of aid that can get into Gaza. After the flotilla violence the US said it was working with Israel to determine how aid can be better provided to Gaza, and officials suggested it might include ways to improve sea routes. But here Crowley hints that the changes will likely be to the overland aid channels.
At the Pentagon, the officer in charge of US naval forces in the Mediterranean, Vice Admiral Harry Harris, was asked if he was concerned about these ships possibly being escorted by armed ships.
“I’m concerned. I am concerned about that and we’ll be watching that closely,” he replied. “The concerns are that we might have more violence. We might have more loss of life. It’s hard to predict what would happen if that come to pass if that happens.”
Asked what the US might do in this case, Harris replied, “I’m not going to talk about what we might do or could do, we’re watching it closely.”
Harris said that when the flotilla was intercepted by the Israelis the US 6 th Fleet did not have much more information than was coming out in the press.
“We had no indication it would go down the way it did,” he said.