Libyan Ship Heading to Egypt

Published: July 14th 2010
in News » World

Moldovan flag

After much speculation, it appears as though a 92-metre Libyan aid ship will dock at the port of El-Arish in Egypt. “As soon as the ship arrives in El-Arish, Egyptian authorities will unload its cargo and hand the aid to the Egyptian Red Crescent, which will deliver it to the Palestinian side,” said Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit.


The Moldovan-flagged ship called the Amalthea, supposedly carrying 2,000 tonnes of food and medicine, will be unloaded on Thursday. The vessel, also carrying 12 crew members and nine passengers, was originally headed to Gaza, where many thought that it would attempt to tear down the Gaza blockade.


The blockade is designed to prevent Palestinian armed groups from bringing weapons into Gaza by sea. For nearly 10 years, Hamas has used Gaza as a base from which to fire rockets into Israel, especially on the city of Sderot. “No ship can breach this blockade, be they civil or military ships. Whoever violates the blockade is heading for retaliation,” said Israeli envoy Sari Rubenstein.


Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh had encouraged the ship to stay on course. “Don't fall for any tricks and don't dock in any other port other than the one in Gaza. You are our sailing hope at sea.” He claims that the recent decision by Israel to ease the blockade was aimed at “bypassing our demand to lift the siege entirely.” Speaking at a street named after the controversial Turkish flotilla, Haniyeh also added that the Palestinians “are loyal to the shahidim (martyrs) who were killed at sea by cruelty and cynicism.”


Despite Haniyeh’s demands, the Amalthea’s captain confirmed that the ship is heading to Egypt, due to Israeli demands. Youssef Sawani of the Kadhafi Foundation informed AFP that the captain was told to change directions and head towards El-Arish or turn back. “If not, they have threatened to resort to force.” An Israeli spokesman has denied such an ultimatum.


The Kadhafi Foundation has reported that four Israeli military ships have been tailing the Amalthea to ensure it does not break the Israeli naval blockade. “Out of concern for the security of everybody on board, the foundation decided to head for El-Arish and to unload its cargo there,” said Sawani.


The Isreali military said that the Amalthea experienced engine problems overnight, and stalled at a spot in international waters, 60 nautical miles from El-Arish, and 80 from Gaza. A senior military official told Maariv Daily that the naval forces were not expecting any problems to occur involving those on board the Amalthea, however they would respond accordingly if needed. “We do not expect any resistance,” he said. “But if our soldiers do encounter problems, they will not hesitate to use force.”


According to Tony Blair, the representative of the Middle East diplomatic Quartet, “the most important thing is to avoid confrontation, which is why the established channels for delivering aid to Gaza should be used in accordance with the new policy we have been working on.”

Related articles: (Libya, flotilla, Egypt)

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