The Iranian Red Crescent has equipped and loaded two ships with aid, and is waiting for permission from the Iranian Foreign Ministry to set sail for Gaza, AFP reported on Sunday. A third ship is planned for next week.

An Iranian Red Crescent official, Mojtaba Majd,  was quoted as saying that over 100,000 Iranians have volunteered to sail on the ships. He said that the problems involved may prevent Iran from sending volunteers, however "the important issue is that the people of Gaza know that more than 100,000 Iranians are ready to come to their help."

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One of the ships, which is carrying food and medicine is expected to leave this week.  The Red Crescent has promised to send two ships by Friday and a third next week.

A plane is also planned to fly to Egypt carrying 30 tons of medical aid.

The Iranian decision to send ships to Gaza, follows the international outrage over the Israeli commando raid on the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, which was part of a flotilla seeking to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

An Iranian Red Crescent ship was sent to Gaza during 'Operation Cast Lead' but was turned back by Israeli warships.

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