A ship loaded with aid for Palestinians from a Libyan charity prepared Saturday to set sail from Greece, but its final destination remained unclear after Israel called on the United Nations to prevent the ship from heading to the Gaza Strip.
The ship’s departure from the Greek port of Lavrio comes over a month after a deadly Israeli raid on an aid flotilla trying to break the blockade on Gaza.
The Moldavian—flagged, Greek—owned Amalthia will leave from Lavrio on Saturday afternoon carrying 2,000 tons of food and medical aid supplied by the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Association, which is headed by Saif Al—Islam Gaddafi, the second—born son of the Libyan leader.
The Amalthia’s journey is expected to take from between 70 and 80 hours and was originally set to sail to Gaza to unload the aid.
Aid in the ship includes cartons and sacks of wheat, flour, maze, rice, sugar, olives, tomato paste, milk and vegetable oil, which has been donated by Greek companies and charities.
Medical supplies including cough syrup and antibiotics have also been loaded onto the ship, organisers said.
Youssef Sawani, the executive director of the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation said he hoped Israeli authorities will allow the ship to sail to the Gaza Strip but feared that it may have to be diverted to el—Arish on the coast of the Sinai peninsula.
“We intend no provocation and comply with international rules. The ship has been commissioned and organised by NGOs purely for humanitarian purposes and this is within international law and conventions,” Mr. Sawani told the German Press Agency dpa.
“These goods are needed otherwise the people of Gaza will continue to suffer — they are facing a humanitarian catastrophe unless they receive urgent aid,” Mr. Sawani said.
He said the the foundation, together with other regional charities supplied humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza during the war and last year sent 102 trucks of food and medicine.
“Now is the time for the international community to send aid to help ... the people of Gaza,” Mr. Sawani said, adding that “we hope that everything will be calm and will go smoothly.” Israeli radio reported that the ship’s change in destination from the Gaza Strip to el—Arish followed talks between Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his Greek and Moldavian counterparts.
Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Gabriella Shalev, asked the world body on Friday to step up efforts to prevent the ship from setting sail.
“Israel calls upon the international community to exert its influence on the government of Libya to demonstrate responsibility and prevent the ship from departing to the Gaza Strip,” she wrote ina letter to UN Secretary—General Ban Ki—moon.
“Israel reserves the right under international law to prevent this ship from violating the existing naval blockade on the Gaza Strip,” Ms. Shalev told Mr. Ban.
In addition to 15 supporters and activists, all from Libya except for a Nigerian and one Moroccan, the ship has a crew of 12 from Haiti, India, Syria and its Cuban—born captain.
Eight Turkish nationals and one US citizen of Turkish descent were killed in May after Israeli commandos boarded their aid ship which was heading to Gaza, sparking a diplomactic row between Turkey and Israel.