Activists aboard the Libyan commissioned aid ship the Almathea are still intending on sailing directly to Gaza despite Israeli warnings not do so, said MK Ahmed Tibi (Ta'al) in an interview with Army Radio on Sunday. Tibi has been in contact with the organization sending the ship, the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation.
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"The goal is to reach Gaza," said Tibi. "There is not only a humanitarian goal, but there is also a political message."
Tibi stated that the activists aboard the ship, expected to arrive in the area on Wednesday, "have no intention of physically confronting IDF soldiers."
Israel made clear on Saturday night it would not allow the Moldovan-flagged ship
commissioned by a Libyan charity to dock in Gaza, amid conflicting reports about
whether the ship was headed for Gaza or the Egyptian port of
Defense Minister Ehud Barak issued a statement saying that the
ship was “an unnecessary provocation,” and it would have been better had it not
“It is possible to bring merchandise into Gaza, after it has
been checked, through the Ashdod port,” Barak said. “However, we will not allow
the entrance of arms and ammunition into Gaza. We recommend to the organizers of
the flotilla to accompany Israeli naval ships into Ashdod or to sail directly
departed on Saturday evening from a port
southeast of Athens, carrying 2,000 tons of cargo, including sacks of rice and
sugar, and corn oil and olive paste, mostly donated by Greek companies and
charities, organizers said.
In addition to 15 volunteers – all from
Libya, except for a Nigerian and a Moroccan – the ship has a crew of 12 from
Cuba, Haiti, India and Syria.
Greek authorities said on Saturday night
that the ship was headed for Egypt. “We confirmed the destination in talks with
the Libyan ambassador and the ship’s agent,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigoris
Delavekouras said earlier in the day.
But Al-Jazeera, which has a
reporter on the vessel, reported that its Cuban captain was indeed headed for
The ship is funded by the Gaddafi International Charity and
Development Foundation, headed by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, a son of Libyan leader
Barak spoke on Saturday with Egyptian intelligence chief
Omar Suleiman about the issue. Despite numerous rumors about other vessels
trying to break the Gaza blockade, this would be the first ship – if it indeed
it tries to reach Gaza – to do so since the IDF’s raid on a Turkish vessel on
May 31 that left nine people dead.
While Israel has significantly eased
restriction on what is allowed into Gaza since then, it has said that the
blockade will remain in place to prevent the transfer of arms into Gaza.
According to Israeli policy, all ships with goods for Gaza must be checked at
“There is no problem in getting civilian supplies into Gaza
now,” one government official said. “But the idea that cargo can go into Gaza
without being checked is unacceptable.
Israel will enforce that all cargo
going into Gaza needs to be inspected, and will not allow a precedent where the
security envelope will be broken.”
The official said that as a result of
Israel’seasing the restrictions of what is allowed into Gaza, there was now a greater
understanding internationally for Israel’s naval blockade.
Ministry Avigdor Lieberman spoke a number of times over the past few days with
his Greek and Moldovan counterparts about the Amalthea
, and those conversations
left a feeling in Jerusalem, according to ministry officials, that the ship
would not sail for Gaza.
On Friday, Israel asked that the UN step up
efforts to prevent the ship from setting sail.
In an official letter to
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev asked the
international community to use its power to halt the ship.
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,” the envoy wrote.
“Israel reserves the right under
international law to prevent this ship from violating the existing naval
blockade on the Gaza Strip,” Shalev told Ban Ki-moon.
intentions of this mission are even more questionable and provocative,
recent measures taken by Israel to ensure the increase of humanitarian
flowing into the Gaza Strip,” Shalev wrote in her letter.Amalthea
journey to Gaza was expected to take up to 80 hours, meaning that the
arrive at El-Arish or Gaza early on Wednesday morning.
executive director of the Gaddafi International Charity and Development
Foundation, insisted the goal remained to unload the supplies in Gaza.
the ship would not seek confrontation with the Israelis.
If Israel does
not allow the ship into Gaza, the group will seek “any other appropriate
destination – El-Arish or other – to deliver the goods to the people in
“I think the Israelis need to understand we are not
provoking any kind of action, we are not in military action, we are a
humanitarian organization,” he said.
MK Tibi confirmed an
Al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper report that he was helping the flotilla
He said he had given them a list of what was needed in the Gaza Strip,
certain medicines, a special kind of milk and generators for
National Union MK Arye Eldad, who like Tibi is a medical
doctor, said Israel should insist on transferring the supplies by
“Medicine, milk and generators are all good, but they can all be
brought to Gaza via Ashdod,” Eldad said. “Tibi is trying to make Israel
bad. He cares about hurting Israel, not about helping Gaza.”
and AP contributed to this report.