'Libyan aid boat en route to Gaza Strip'

Gaza lawmaker says ship loaded with humanitarian supplies will attempt to break Israeli blockade.

Free Gaza boat 224 (photo credit: AP)
Free Gaza boat 224
(photo credit: AP)
A boat has reportedly set sail from Libya for the Gaza Strip, significantly ratcheting up the challenges to Israel's naval blockade of the district. Israel has, over the last three months, allowed into Gaza three boats carrying radical left-wing protesters who set sail from Cyprus. But the fact that this boat is coming from Libya, a hostile country with which Israel has no diplomatic ties, moves the challenge up a notch, Israeli diplomatic officials said. One official said that everything Libya's strongman Muammar Gaddafi does causes concern, "because he is not rational. This is another example of Libya's erratic behavior." The launching of the boat comes just days after the US Senate confirmed the appointment of Gene Cretz as the first US ambassador to Libya in 36 years, marking a dramatic turnaround in US-Libyan ties. Israeli officials said that the decision whether to stop the ship or let it pass will have to be made by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said that no decision had yet been made, and that each decision regarding ships sailing to Gaza was made on an individual basis. Independent Palestinian Authority lawmaker Jamal Khoudari said Wednesday the ship left a Libyan port carrying food, medicine, blankets and powdered milk. He said it would arrive in Gaza early next week. Palmor said that although there had been persistent rumors that a boat might set sail from Libya, the government first heard of the boat on Tuesday. Diplomatic officials said the boat was as much a challenge to Egypt as to Israel, because the Egyptians could open their border with Gaza and let aid through if it so desired. AP contributed to this report