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 were shadowing 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.
"Eight Israeli warships are surrounding the
Libyan aid ship for Gaza and preventing the continuation of its
journey," Yousseuf Sawani, executive director of the Gaddafi
Foundation which charteredthe vessel, said early on Wednesday.
Sawani said earlier that the warships were
"threatening" the Amalthea, also known as Al Amal,
which he said was still headed for Gaza. But he made it clear that those
on board would not violently resist any efforts to stop them.
"First and foremost, we want to arrive to Gaza. If this is
impossible, we don't want to subject anyone to danger," he told Al
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.
An Egyptian official confirmed
that the ship sought and received permissionto sail to El Arish,
where authorities would unload its humanitarian aid cargo and transfer
it by land to Gaza.
But he said that there was "no co-ordination at the moment with the
ship and we do not know where its final destination is".
An Israeli official hinted at possible disputes between the chartered
crew and passengers over the destination.
"It's far from clear that there is agreement about where the ship is
headed," said the official, who had been briefed on the navy's radio
exchanges with the Amalthea since contact was made with it some
160km from Gaza Strip's shores.
Just before midnight, the ship's crew said they were stuck because of
In a recording played on Israel radio, a crew member said he did not
know how long it would take to repair the main engine and resume the
Amalthea was still around 90km from land but is not expected
to dock for another day. It is carrying 12 crew members and at least
nine passengers, including six Libyans and one each from Algeria,
Morocco and Nigeria.
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.
Al Jazeera and agencies