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Middle East
Iran Red Crescent plans Gaza ships
Official says two aid ships will head for Gaza later this week in bid to break blockade.
Last Modified: 07 Jun 2010 11:11 GMT
Iran's Revolutionary Guards have expressed readiness to escort aid flotillas to Gaza [AFP]

Iran's Red Crescent has announced it will send two aid ships to Gaza later this week in the latest effort to break Israel's blockade on the territory.

The plan was approved by Iran's foreign ministry on Sunday, and will see one boat filled with aid and the other carrying relief workers to the coastal strip, Abdolrouf Adibzadeh, the Red Crescent's director for international affairs said.

He said that the ships would be sent carrying food, medicine and Iranian volunteers.

"Volunteers who want to go to Gaza and help the oppressed people of occupied Palestine can refer to the Red Crescent website and register," Adibzadeh said.

Previous attempts by the Iranian Red Crescent to reach Gaza have been stopped by the Israeli navy, but the latest attempt comes amid reports that Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards have expressed its readiness to escort aid flotillas to Gaza.

"If the respected leader of the revolution (supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) gives an order in this regard, the Revolutionary Guards' naval forces will take a practical step using their capability and equipment to escort flotillas to Gaza,"  Khamenei's aide in the Guards' naval wing, Ali Shirazi, told the Mehr news agency on Sunday.

It is unclear though whether Iran has the capacity to sucessfully escort vessels in the Mediterranean, as most of its naval division is made up of light vessels and speed boats.

Anger at raid

Iran has reacted angrily to last week's Israeli raid on an aid flotilla heading for Gaza, which left nine people dead and many more wounded. 

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, has lashed out at Israel, demanding that it face "political sanctions" for the raid on Mavi Mamara last Monday.

Fresh eyewitness accounts have emerged from those on board the ship since then.

An Australian man shot in the leg during the incident said he was "left to bleed" by Israeli troops.

"Many of the soldiers that came up, picked up my passport because it was a different colour, looked at it, chucked it on the ground next to me and said, 'Ah, you're Australian," Ahmed Luqman told Australia's national broadcaster ABC, from his hospital bed in Istanbul.   

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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