Israeli blockade of Gaza unsustainable: White House

WASHINGTON Fri Jun 4, 2010 7:44pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House said on Friday Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip was unsustainable and urged a Gaza aid vessel sent by pro-Palestinian activists to divert to an Israeli port to reduce the risk of violence.

"We are working urgently with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and other international partners to develop new procedures for delivering more goods and assistance to Gaza," said Mike Hammer, spokesman for the White House National Security Council.

"The current arrangements are unsustainable and must be changed. For now, we call on all parties to join us in encouraging responsible decisions by all sides to avoid any unnecessary confrontations," Hammer said in a statement.

Israel was preparing to intercept the Irish-owned ship the Rachel Corrie, bound for Gaza with aid and activists, after its naval operation on Monday in which nine Turkish activists were killed on another ship when it was boarded by Israeli forces.

"It remains a U.S. priority to provide assistance to the people of Gaza," Hammer said.

"In the interest of the safety of all involved, and the safe transmission of assistance to the people of Gaza, we strongly encourage those on board the Rachel Corrie and other vessels to sail to Ashdod to deliver their materials to Gaza," he said, referring to the Israeli port.

(Reporting by Alister Bull; Editing by Xavier Briand)