Israel blocks Libyan ship taking aid to Gaza
15 July 2010
A Libyan ship carrying aid for Gaza docked at an Egyptian port today after the Israeli navy stopped it from reaching the Palestinian territory.
The Amalthea, flying under a Moldovan flag, will unload its cargo and transfer it to the Red Crescent for delivery to Gaza by land across the border, said Gamal Abdel Maqsoud, director of the Egyptian port of el-Arish.
The Amalthea was the latest ship to attempt to break the embargo, six weeks after the Israeli navy's interception of an aid flotilla in which nine Turkish activists were killed. The assault prompted a wave of international condemnation and resulted in Israel agreeing to ease its blockade of Gaza. But it has maintained the naval embargo, insisting it is necessary and justified under international law to prevent weapons being shipped to Hamas.
The Amalthea sailed from Greece at the weekend carrying up to 15 activists and 2,000 tonnes of food and medicine, according to the organisers, a charity chaired by a son of Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader.
Youssef Sawani, director of the charity, told Reuters it was a "peaceful mission". But Gabriela Shalev, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, wrote to Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general, expressing concern "that the true nature of its actions remains dubious".
Following intense Israeli diplomatic efforts, Greece – from where the boat sailed – Moldova – under whose flag the boat is operating – and Egypt all agreed that the Amalthea should be directed to el-Arish, 40km (25 miles) from Gaza, where its cargo could be unloaded, inspected and transferred to Gaza, according to Israeli officials. Israel had also invited the activists to unload the shipment at the Israeli port of Ashdod, a similar distance from Gaza.
Despite ceding to calls for the blockade to be relaxed in the aftermath of the assault on the flotilla on 31 May, Israel has insisted the commandos who carried out the raids acted in 'self-defence'.