x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Israel says Libyan aid ship will not reach Gaza

Intense diplomatic efforts have likely prevented a Libyan aid ship from trying to breach Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, the foreign ministry said today.

JERUSALEM // Intense diplomatic efforts have likely prevented a Libyan aid ship from trying to breach Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, the foreign ministry said today. "Foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman spoke several times in recent days with the foreign ministers of Greece and Moldova and reached understandings with them about dealing with the Libyan ship," a ministry statement said. "The foreign ministry believes that due to these talks, the ship will not reach Gaza," the statement added.

A charity headed by Saif al Islam Qadafi, the son of Libyan leader Moamar Qadafi, who is widely seen as heir apparent, said yesterday it was sending an aid boat from Greece to Gaza. Agents for the Moldova-flagged cargo ship Amalthea said the boat was expected to set sail from Lavrio, some 60 kilometres southeast of Athens. The 92-metre freighter has a 12-man crew and will carry up to nine passengers, a representative of Piraeus-based agents Alpha Shipping said yesterday.

But Israeli officials said that Moldovan authorities had made contact with the captain of the ship who agreed to divert the cargo to the Egyptian port of El-Arish. They did not elaborate. Meanwhile Israeli media today reported that Israel had asked the United Nations to stop the Libyan ship. Israel's UN ambassador, Gabriela Shalev, sent a letter to UN chief Ban Ki moon asking that the international community intervene to prevent the ship approaching Gaza, Haaretz newspaper reported on its website.

"Israel calls upon the international community to exert its influence on the government of Libya to demonstrate responsibility and prevent the ship from departing to the Gaza Strip," Haaretz quoted from the letter. Ms Shalev also warned in the letter that "Israel reserves the right under international law to prevent this ship from violating the existing naval blockade on the Gaza Strip." The Tripoli-based Kadhafi International Charity and Development Association said the cargo ship was "loaded with about 2,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid in the form of foodstuff and medications."

The ship will also carry "a number of supporters who are keen on expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people in the plight amidst the siege imposed on Gaza," the organisation added in a statement. On May 31, Israeli special forces stormed a flotilla of six ships carrying aid for the blockaded Gaza Strip, killing nine Turks on board the Turkish passenger ferry Mavi Marmara. Israel says its commandos only used force to defend themselves after being ambushed.

Israel imposed the blockade in June 2006 after its soldier, Gilad Shalit, was captured by Gaza militants and tightened it a year later when Hamas seized power in the coastal strip. In the wake of the May 31 incident, Israel has significantly eased the blockade, barring only arms and goods that could be used to create weapons or build fortifications, but it has maintained the naval blockade. * AFP