Israel will be able to handle any violence from "hardcore activists" on board a new Gaza-bound flotilla, the foreign minister said Tuesday, amid claims some were planning attacks with chemicals.
"The moderate elements who were planning to join the flotilla... know that for everyone who wants to help people in Gaza, that there is a legal way to do it," Avigdor Lieberman told public radio in a telephone interview from Zagreb.
"It is clear that those who are still participating in the flotilla are the hardcore terror activists," he said.
"No one doubts the intention of those people... they will be on board several boats. But I am sure we will cope with them."
Israel is gearing up to block the arrival of a new international aid flotilla which is planning to set sail from Greece later this week in a bid to break the five-year blockade on the Gaza Strip.
A similar attempt by a six-ship convoy to reach Gaza in May last year ended in bloodshed when Israeli troops stormed the lead vessel, leaving nine Turkish activists dead and sparking a diplomatic crisis with Ankara.
Following two days of deliberations, Israel's security cabinet on Monday ordered the navy to stop the second flotilla from reaching Gaza, but urged it to do so with "minimal confrontation" with the passengers.
Some 350 pro-Palestinian activists from 22 countries including Canada, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy and Spain are set to join "Freedom Flotilla II" -- among them a good number of middle-aged and even elderly Americans and Europeans.
Security officials and foreign ministry representatives had initially told the cabinet that Israel had no information that anyone linked to a terror group was planning to take part in the flotilla, the Haaretz newspaper reported on Monday.
But by nightfall, the assessment had changed dramatically, with a military spokeswoman telling reporters they had information about "radical elements" who were planning to join the flotilla in order to murder Israeli soldiers.
"There are radical elements on board the American boat who have said they want to kill Israeli soldiers," said Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovitz.
"We also know that one of the boats is carrying dangerous incendiary chemicals that these human rights militants want to use against Israeli soldiers," she said, warning that if the troops' lives were endangered, they would react.
Lieberman said it was clear those who were participating in the flotilla were "hardcore" activists bent on violence.
"There are all sorts of groups and factions who, despite the dangers, will take part. Those who are left... are the hardcore activists, the terror activists who don't want to help -- humanitarian aid doesn't interest them," he said.
"They want to purposely create a provocation, they are looking for a confrontation, they are looking for blood, they are looking for many images on the TV screens," he said.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and other leaders have urged the flotilla not to set sail, and Washington has warned US nationals not to join the attempt to break the Israeli embargo.
A ban on civilian goods and foodstuffs was eased last year but many restrictions remain in place.