A Libyan aid ship stayed on course for the besieged Gaza Strip on Sunday despite Israeli warnings that it would be intercepted at sea, said an organiser on board the boat.
“We are heading for Gaza. We will not change direction,” Mashallah Zwei, a representative of the Kadhafi Foundation, a Libyan charity, told AFP by satellite phone.
Mr. Zwei insisted the foundation was not seeking “a confrontation or a provocation,” when asked about the risks of a repeat of an Israeli naval raid on an aid flotilla on May 31 that killed nine Turks.
“For the time being our only thought is delivering the aid to Gaza,” he said. “We are supported by the international community, who, we hope, will help us reach our goal.”
He said the boat was “close to Crete” and would likely reach Gaza in about two days.
Israel earlier on Sunday vowed to prevent the Libyan ship from running its blockade of the Palestinian territory. “Israel will not let the boat reach Gaza,” Minister without portfolio Yossi Peled told Israel's public radio a day after the 92-metre freighter set sail from the Greek port of Lavrio, south of Athens.
Allowing boats to reach Hamas-run Gaza without being checked would have “very serious consequences” for Israel's security, he said.
Israel's Defence Minister Ehud Barak said the attempt to reach Gaza, which has been subjected to an Israeli naval blockade for the past four years, was an “unnecessary provocation.”
The ship's agent and the Greek Foreign Ministry had on Saturday assured Israel that the Moldova-flagged vessel, chartered by the charity run by the son of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, Seif al-Islam, was heading for the Egyptian port of El-Arish.