Sun, 11 Jul 2010 13:50:28 GMT
The Libyan aid vessel
A Libyan aid ship is sailing towards the Gaza Strip and in defiance of Tel Aviv's threats, with crewmembers saying taking relief supplies to Gaza is their only concern.
The Moldova-flagged cargo ship, the Amalthea, organized by the Tripoli-based Gaddafi International Charity and Development Association, is carrying 12 crewmembers and 2,000 tons of relief supplies from Greece to the Gaza Strip.
Israeli minister without portfolio Yossi Peled had said earlier that "Israel will not let the boat reach Gaza," claiming there would be "very serious consequences", should Amalthea make the journey. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak had also branded the humanitarian bid as “unnecessary provocation.”
Mashallah Zwei, an organizer of the pro-Palestinian move, however, said, "We are heading for Gaza. We will not change direction."
Zwei, who is among the activists, said the organization was not seeking "a confrontation or a provocation."
"For the time being our only thought is delivering the aid to Gaza," he said. "We are supported by the international community, who, we hope, will help us reach our goal."
However, a statement from Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak's office said late on Saturday that "we recommend that the organizers either let the ship be escorted by navy vessels to Ashdod port (in southern Israel) or that is sails directly to the port of El-Arish" in Egypt.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman had, meanwhile, entered talks with Greece to urge Athens to deal with the vessel as Tel Aviv pleases. Greek foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras had said that his office had "received assurances from the Libyan ambassador that the boat would head for El-Arish."
Efforts by Tel Aviv to stop the aid ship come after on May 31, Israeli commandos assaulted the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla aid convoy, killing nine Turkish nationals onboard.
The attack sent shockwaves across the world and gave rise to global calls for an international investigation into the incident.
Following the international outcry, Tel Aviv said it would ease the land blockade on Gaza while keeping the naval surveillance strictly in order.
Palestinians, however, say the situation inside the impoverished enclave has not improved, confirming that restrictions continue to deprive 1.5 million Gazans of food, fuel and other necessities.