(photo credit: Associated Press)
The navy went on high alert Sunday as activists behind a Libyan-backed ship that
set sail from Greece the day before expressed determination to sail directly for
Gaza, and not El-Arish in the Sinai, in an attempt to break Israel’s naval
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Defense officials said the navy was tracking the ship and had
put forces on standby in case it needed to board the vessel, as it did when
confronted with the Gazabound flotilla in late May.
aboard one of those ships, the Mavi Marmara
, left nine Turkish activists
The navy, the officials said, would make contact with the ship
while it was still far from Gaza, likely in international waters, and request
that it follow naval vessels into Ashdod Port. If it refuses or does not agree
to sail to Egypt, Israel has prepared plans to commandeer it.
officials called the entire episode “superfluous.”
“Maybe no one told the
Libyans, or the information has not yet reached them, but following the cabinet
decision a couple weeks ago, civilian cargo now goes into Gaza,” one official
“This exercise is both a superfluous and unnecessary
The official said Israel would allow no ship to break the
“security envelope” around the Gaza Strip, but added that the organizers could
bring the vessel into Ashdod, and that Israel would allow representativesfrom the boat to accompany the cargo – reportedly some 2,000 tons of rice, sugar
and corn oil – into Gaza.
The ship is being funded by a charity headed by
a son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and is expected to approach Gaza early
Youssef Sawani, executive director of the Gaddafi
International Charity and Development Foundation, said Sunday in an
with Army Radio that the vessel was heading for Gaza, although on
foreign ministry officials from Israel and Greece said the ship was
In response to Sawani’s comments, Foreign Minister Avigdor
Lieberman told Army Radio on Sunday that “no ship of any kind will be
arrive at Gaza.”
“I hope that common sense will prevail,” Lieberman said.
“They can deliver aid for Gaza to El-Arish or Ashdod.”
minister added that while Israel was not looking for a confrontation, no
would be allowed to undermine the country’s sovereignty.
MK Ahmed Tibi
(Ta’al), who has been in contact with the Libyan charity group, echoed
claims that the ship, the Moldovan-flagged Amalthea, was headed directly
“The goal is to reach Gaza,” Tibi said.
“There is not only a
humanitarian goal, there is a political message.”
In addition to 15
volunteers – all from Libya, except for a Nigerian citizen and a
national – the ship has a crew of 12 from Cuba, Haiti, India and
Syria.Jerusalem Post staff contributed to