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Middle East
Gaza aid ship 'diverted to Egypt'
Israeli warships tailing Libyan-chartered Amalthea, "forcing" it towards El Arish.
Last Modified: 14 Jul 2010 18:53 GMT

The Amalthea is carrying 2,000 tonnes of supplies intended for the people of Gaza [Reuters]

A Libyan aid ship originally bound for the Gaza Strip has been diverted to a port in Egypt after the Israeli navy warned the vessel against trying to break an Israeli blockade on the Palestinian coastal territory.

Israeli warships followed the Moldovan-flagged Amalthea, carrying 2,000 tonnes of food and medicine, to its diverted destination of El Arish port on the Egyptian Sinai coast.

Amr el-Kahky, Al Jazeera's correspondent in El Arish said the Amalthea was in the waiting area just off the port.

"We understand it will dock in an hour's time," el-Kahky said.

Overland convoy

"The Egyptian foreign ministry has declared that it has officially accepted that the ship can dock here. Off loading of the ship and loading [the supplies] onto trucks to travel to Gaza is due to take place tomorrow.

"[We have been told that] aid will be delivered to the Egyptian Red Crescent, which will be responsible for delivering the aid to Gaza."

Yousseuf Sawani, executive director of the Gaddafi Foundation which charteredthe vessel, said earlier on Wednesday that eight Israeli warships had surrounded the Libyan aid ship, preventing it from continuing its journey to Gaza.

Sawani said warships had "threatened" the Amalthea, also known as Al Amal, but that he had made it clear that those on board would not violently resist any efforts to stop them.

Sawani said that communications with the boat had been jammed and the vessel was moving at a slow pace because of the Israeli warships that were trailing it.

The Amalthea is carrying 12 crew members and at least nine passengers, including six Libyans and one each from Algeria, Morocco and Nigeria.

Another aid mission

A separate attempt to deliver aid relief and medical supplies to Gaza is also currently under way.

A convoy of 150 people, including "unionists, journalists and academics", is travelling overland in 25 vehicles from Jordan to the Egyptian Rafah crossing.

These challenges to the blockade come a day after Israel's military admitted mistakes in the May 31 attack on a flotilla of aid vessels trying to breach the blockade.

Nine pro-Palestinian activists, eight Turks and a dual US-Turkish citizen, were killed after Israeli soldiers boarded the lead ship Mavi Marmara.

Following an international outcry over the raid, Israel recently eased restrictions on the Gaza Strip, allowing some previously banned items into the territory.

But construction materials remain heavily restricted, Gazans have very limited freedom of movement, and Israel still enforces a naval blockade of the territory.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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