Navy turns back Libyan ship heading to Gaza

The Navy turned away a Libyan ship heading to the Gaza Strip on Monday, ending the first effort by a country to break the blockade of the Hamas-ruled territory. The Al Marwa was stopped as it approached Gaza after leaving Port Said in Egypt on Sunday. The Navy radioed the vessel and ordered it to turn back, officials said, noting that force was not used. In Gaza's small port, spectators, journalists and dozens of porters had assembled to await the arrival of the Libyan ship. A senior Libyan government official told the Associated Press that the ship would return to Libya. "The Israeli warships are making it difficult for the ship to reach the Gaza coast, in spite of the fact that this is a civilian ship sent to help Palestinians during the siege," the official said. In a statement released by the official Libyan news agency, the country said that Israel had sent two navy ships, a fighter jet and a submarine to force the boat to turn around. Libya called the IDF a "terrorist, Zionist army" for taking such action. The decision to prevent the boat's entry into Gaza was made last week by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Since September, Israel has allowed into the Gaza Strip three boats chartered by the US-based Free Gaza movement, which set sail from Cyprus. AP and Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to the report.