Libya ship on way to Gaza, Israel vows 'to stop'

Israel on Sunday renewed its threat to aid activists as the Gaza aid ship of a Libya charity continues its way to break years of siege.

Libya ship on way to Gaza, Israel vows 'to stop'

Israel on Sunday renewed its threat to aid activists as the Gaza aid ship of a Libya charity, set to sail from Greece on Saturday, continues its way to break years of siege.

This latest efforts to brave the Israeli siege comes just over a month after Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish activists in an attack into a flotilla heading for Gaza in international waters.

The brutal attack prompted an international outcry and sparked a furious row with Ankara which wants Israel to apologise or accept an international probe.

Israel will not allow an aid ship sent by a Libyan group to reach Gaza, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Sunday.

"I say very clearly, no ship will arrive in Gaza. We will not permit our sovereignty to be harmed," Lieberman said on Army Radio, referring to Israel's naval siege of the Palestinian territory.

Israel imposes air, sea and land siege to the Gaza Strip. The siege has prevented Gaza from rebuilding after Israel's deadly assault in the territory last year.

"Obeying Israel troops"

Israel on Saturday increased its pressure on Greek, Egyptian and Moldovan authorities to halt the ship chartered by the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation to reach Gaza.

Israeli ambassador to the United Nations sent letters to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the president of the U.N. General Assembly, Ali Treki of Libya.

"In spite of the stated intention of this mission, we are deeply concerned that the true nature of its actions remains dubious," Gabriela Shalev wrote. "This mission is completely unwarranted," she wrote, urging the international community to ensure that the ship "does not sail".

I hope very much that common sense will prevail and the ship will go to El-Arish, or that it will "obey the Israel Defence Forces" and eventually go to (Israel's port of) Ashdod, Lieberman said.

"Not Egypt, but Gaza"

The Moldovan-flagged Amalthea, renamed Hope, left Greece on Saturday bound for Gaza on a trip organised by a charity chaired by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. The group said the ship was carrying some 2,000 tons of food and medicine and complied with international rules.

Supporters of the charity making the trip were mostly Libyans, they said, with also one Nigerian and a Moroccan. The crew include Cubans, Haitians, Syrians and Indians.

According to Reuters news agency, organisers said the vessel, with 12 crew and up to 10 activists on board, would head for Gaza but go to Egypt's port of El-Arish instead if banned from reaching its destination in a voyage expected to take between 70 and 80 hours.

Youssef Sawani, a director of the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, said before the Moldovan ship left Greece that its mission was peaceful and its sole goal was have its humanitarian cargo delivered to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

"We hope the Israelis will not ban the ship from entering the port of Gaza. If they decide to do so we have no means to object to that. This is a peaceful mission," said Sawani.

"Our sole goal and intention is to have the goods delivered to those who need it. It's not to make an event or a show in high seas or somewhere else," he said before the ship left the Greek port of Lavrio.

But, organisers denied Israeli claims that the vessel would instead sail to Egypt.

Sawani told Qatar's Al Jazeera TV that there were no plans for the ship to dock at the port El-Arish.

"This is definitely a part of the campaign against the ship, a campaign of distortion, but we are definitely heading towards Gaza, because that is where aid should be heading to," he told TV.

"This is a purely humane mission, it is neither provocative nor hostile," he said.

Following the international outrage caused by its deadly raid on the aid flotilla, Israel has announced steps to ease the blockade of the enclave and set up an internal probe accused of being "powerless".

There has been widespread public outrage in Turkey over Israel's murders of citizens.

Turkey demands international probe, as offered by UN, over the killings of citizens in internaional waters, rejects Israel's internal probe. The U.N. chief had suggested establishing a panel that would be headed by former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer and include representatives from Turkey, Israel and the United States.

Turkey has withdrawn its ambassador, cancelled joint military exercises, and called for Israel to end its blockade of 1.5 million Palestinians.


Agencies

 

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