JERUSALEM, June 21 (UPI) -- The Israeli military says it will intercept this weekend's Gaza-bound Lebanese flotilla with the same commandos used against a previous Turkish convoy.
Two ships are expected to leave from Lebanon for Gaza: one allegedly carrying 25 European activists, including parliament members, and about 50 journalists, and a second said to carry female activists with chemotherapeutic medications for women and children and humanitarian aid, Ynetnews reported Monday.
"We are preparing for several scenarios. It is not yet clear which boats, if any, will make their way towards Gaza or who will be on board," an Israeli military official said. "In any case, we will prevent any vessel from reaching Gaza."
The Israeli navy said there were problems during the May 31 takeover of the Turkish ship, "Mavi Marmara," because there were members of the pro-Palestinian IHH group on board wielding knives and iron rods, Ynetnews said. Nine activists died in that confrontation, bringing stinging criticism of Israel.
The Israeli army says it has better intelligence but its commandos are preparing for surprises.
"The bottom line is that we will act in the same manner -- with the necessary improvements to the tactical problems that were raised," an Israeli military source said. "If we will find terrorists aboard the vessels, we will not hesitate to harm them. If we find innocent civilians, we will escort them to shore peacefully."
Israel said Sunday it would ease its Gaza Strip blockade, allowing all goods in except those on a black list of forbidden goods.
The Israeli government gave final approval to the new policy, but the black list has not been written and the date the policy will take effect hasn't been announced, Haaretz reported.
The country, which now allows only 114 items appearing on a list that is updated every few months, plans to forbid weapons and "dual-use" materials that could be used to create weapons.
"Israel seeks to keep out of Gaza weapons and material that Hamas uses to prepare and carry out terror and rocket attacks toward Israel and its civilians," Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in a statement. "All other goods will be allowed into Gaza."
Construction materials also will be allowed for projects into designated towns as well as others elsewhere if they are under close United Nations supervision.
Israel's latest move drew praise from the White House.
"The United States welcomes the new policy towards Gaza announced by the government of Israel, which responds to the calls of many in the international community," Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement.
He said the policy should "significantly improve conditions for Palestinians in Gaza, while preventing the entry of weapons."