Libyan ship to reach Gaza waters by Wednesday, official says

Photo: Libyan ship to reach Gaza waters by Wednesday, official says / Arab World

A ship carrying aid from Libya for the Gaza Strip is expected to arrive off the coast of Gaza by Wednesday morning at the latest, a Palestinian official in contact with the crew said on Tuesday, DPA reported.

The Moldovan-flagged, Greek-owned Amalthia, with some 15 pro- Palestinian activists and 12 crew members and 2,000 tons of food and medicine, sailed from Greece on Saturday afternoon.

In the wake of May's interception of a Turkish ship on its way to run the Gaza blockade, in which Israeli naval commandoes shot dead nine knife- and stick-wielding civilian activists, Israel greatly eased its restrictions on the entry of goods into the strip.

"The Libyans and the crew insist on reaching Gaza directly," Jamal al-Khodari, the head of Gaza's Popular Committee against the Siege, said Tuesday.

Israel's efforts to exert diplomatic pressure on the organizers and have them redirect their journey to the Egyptian port of al-Arish or the southern Israeli port of Ashdod "have failed," al-Khodari told the German Press-Agency dpa.

"The Israeli threats to stop the Libyan ship are completely unacceptable," he said.

Al-Khodari said his organization was coordinating dozens more siege-breaking boat journeys with activists from various countries.

Israel has called the attempt to break its naval blockade of Gaza an "unnecessary provocation."

While export and the passage of people remain highly restricted, all civilian products with the exception of some dual-use items including cement and metal are now allowed into Gaza, following heavy international pressure on Israel.

"As in previous cases we have sent diplomatic messages to resident countries explaining that humanitarian aid must either go through the port of Ashdod or through Egypt and that no one should try to break the blockade," Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told dpa Tuesday.

"Of course this time, trying to break the blockade would seem even more absurd now that there are almost no restrictions on anything that goes into Gaza," he said.

He would not detail the operational preparations the Israeli military was preparing in case the organizers would go ahead with their attempt to violate the Israeli naval blockade.

The ship was commissioned by the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Association, headed by Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, the second-born son of the Libyan leader.

Aid aboard the ship includes cartons and sacks of wheat, flour, maize, rice, sugar, olives, tomato paste, milk and vegetable oil, all of which has been donated by Greek companies and charities.

Also on board the 92-metre vessel are a crew of 12 from Haiti, India and Syria, under the command of a Cuban-born captain. Most of the activists on board are from Libya, except for one Nigerian, one Algerian and one Moroccan.

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