Gaza-bound Libyan ship sets course for Egypt

JERUSALEM (JTA) – The captain of a Gaza-bound Libyan aid ship told Israel’s Navy he will dock at an Egyptian port.

The ship altered its course Tuesday for the El-Arish port, according to Navy officials, Ynet reported. The ship’s true destination will not be clear until early Wednesday morning, the Navy said.

Egyptian officials said the boat was given permission to dock in its port. The aid cargo would then pass into Gaza through the Rafah crossing.

Yousseuf Sawani, a director of the foundation sponsoring the ship, had told Al Jazeera Sunday that the ship was planning to reach Gaza.

Originally named the Amalthea but renamed Hope for the voyage, the ship left Saturday night from a port southeast of Athens. Israel’s Navy reportedly made contact with the ship for the first time on Tuesday afternoon.

The ship, sponsored by the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation and organized by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, is carrying 2,000 tons of food and medicine, 15 volunteers who want to express solidarity with the Palestinian people and 12 crew members, according to reports.

Organizers said aid on the ship includes sacks of rice and sugar, corn oil and olive paste, mostly donated from Greek companies and charities.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry reportedly had advised the military not to intercept the ship until it enters Gaza territorial waters. The recommendation was made Monday in a report distributed to the defense establishment and the Prime Minister’s Bureau, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported Tuesday.

According to Haaretz, the same recommendation was made in advance of the May flotilla from Turkey that tried to breach Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza. The recommendation reportedly stems from an effort to avoid the possibility of breaking international law.

The Israeli Navy boarded one of the Turkey-flagged ships, and the ensuing violence resulted in the deaths of nine passengers.   
 

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