World Bulletin / News Desk
A Libyan ship carrying aid for Palestinians in Gaza docked at Egypt's El Arish port on Thursday to begin unloading its cargo, after Israel's navy threatened it away from the blockaded Gaza Strip, the port chief said.
The ship anchored in the harbour area on Wednesday night and the captain had waited for permission to dock from the Libyan group in charge of the mission, port chief Abdel Maqsoud said.
An Egyptian official said the Moldovan-flagged Amalthea arrived in El Arish, on Egypt's Mediterranean coast about 45 km (27 miles) south of the border with Gaza, in mid-evening and would begin unloading cargo.
"Medical supplies and passengers will enter Gaza through the Rafah border (crossing), while food will enter through the Awja border," said Captain Gamal Abdel Maqsoud, who is in charge of the port.
He said Egypt's Red Crescent would be responsible for taking the goods over both borders and had trucks waiting in El Arish, according to Reuters.
"Medical supplies and passengers will enter Gaza through the Rafah border, while food will enter through the Awja border," he added.
Earlier, Egypt said late on Tuesday that the Amalthea had requested and been granted permission to dock in El Arish, and that authorities planned to transfer its declared haul of 2,000 tonnes of food and medicine overland to neighbouring Gaza.
Israel had vowed to turn away or seize the ship -- renamed "Hope" by activists -- rather than let it reach Gaza, whose Islamist Hamas rulers the Jewish state wants to keep isolated.
Outcry at the bloodshed aboard the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara prompted Israel to ease overland trade with Gaza. But it kept the heavy blockade, including naval embargo.
Youssef Sawani, director of a charity chaired by the son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, which chartered the Amalthea, confirmed earlier that it had decided to divert the ship away from Gaza for safety reasons.
Israeli forces raided a six-ship flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza on May 31.
Nine people were killed in the raid. The flotilla, which included three cargo ships and three passenger ships, was trying to draw attention to Israel's three-year blockade of the Gaza Strip. The boats were carrying items such as electric-powered wheelchairs, prefabricated homes and water purifiers.
Gaza prime minister Ismail Haniyeh urged the activists not to let their ship be diverted from the territory's shore and called in a speech for more pro-Palestinian "freedom flotillas".
"The sea and land convoys must continue," he said. "We hope we can depend on Islamic nations to help us lift the blockade."
1.5 million Gazans live under heavy Israel siege for a long time and Egypt still insists on not to opening the only Gaza border crossing in a move condemned by Muslims around the world in protests, leaving Gazans desperate to digging tunnels underground and risking their lives since 2007.
Hamas wants Israel and Egypt to reopen all Gaza's border crossings so that people and goods can move freely. Gaza has been under heavy blockade for most of the time since Hamas took power there in June 2007.
The ship appeared to have been held up in international waters the previous night. Israel Radio aired what it said was a recording of the Cuban captain, identified as Antonio, informing the navy that his engineers were fixing mechanical problems.
Ayache Derradji, an Al Jazeera reporter on the ship, said then it was considering options such as heading for Gaza after entering Egyptian waters, where Israel's navy would not follow.