Libyan ship to Gaza under way after Israeli stalling, direction unclear

A Libyan aid ship got under way after stalling overnight, with organisers insisting it was staying the course for Gaza.

Libyan ship to Gaza under way after Israeli stalling, direction unclear

 

A Libyan aid ship got under way on Wednesday after stalling overnight, with organisers insisting it was staying the course for Gaza, its every movement shadowed by a fleet of Israeli warships.

The ais ship set a new course for Egypt following Israel's navy warnings, an Israeli official said earlier, Reuters said.

But the charity chaired by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi -- son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi -- which chartered the Amalthea insisted at the time that the ship would hold course to Gaza.

But it was unclear if the freighter was heading for the Egyptian port of El-Arish, or would continue to head for the Gaza Strip in defiance of an Israeli naval blockade on the territory.

"First and foremost, we want to arrive to Gaza. If this is impossible, we don't want to subject anyone to danger," Youssef Sawani, an official with the Gadhafi International Charity and Development Foundation who was in contact with the boat, told the pan-Arab Al-Jazeera television station.

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The real-time shipping map on MarineTraffic.com showed the Amalthea on a southeasterly approach to El Arish, 40 miles (64 km) away, with an estimated time of arrival of 1300 GMT. The ship had earlier been absent from the map, suggesting that its GPS tracker was temporarily obstructed or turned off.

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.

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.
 

Early shadowing

Earlier on Wednesday, Israeli officials said the navy was shadowing the ship in international waters 55 miles (88 km) from Egypt and 80 miles (128 km) from Gaza.

Al-Jazeera satellite channel, which has a correspondent aboard the ship, said four Israeli warships were in pursuit. 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.

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Israel Radio aired what it said was a recording of the ship's Cuban captain, Antonio, informing navy negotiators by radio that his engineers were trying to fix mechanical problems.

"It appears that the ship has overcome its difficulties. It is now heading to El Arish," an Israeli official told Reuters.

The Amalthea set sail from Greece on Saturday on a voyage that would ordinarily see it reach Gaza by Wednesday. Rerouting to El Arish would still require the ship to skirt Gaza.

Israel has resisted calls for a U.N.-led inquiry but has appointed two panels, one military and one civilian, to review the raid.

An Israeli inquiry by a milary panel under a retired general into the navy's killing of the Turkish activists concluded on Monday there had been faults in planning the high seas interception but that lethal force was warranted.

Agencies
 

Güncelleme Tarihi: 14 Temmuz 2010, 14:01
YORUM EKLE