Gaza aid ship docks in el-Arish, awaits instructions

July 15th, 2010 - 7:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Cairo, July 15 (DPA) A Libyan-commissioned ship with 12 crewmembers from Haiti, Syria and India carrying aid for the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip, docked in the Egyptian port of el-Arish Thursday after an overnight wait, port officials said.
Director of the el-Arish port Jamal Abdelmaksoud confirmed that the Almathea has docked and is waiting for the 2,000 tonnes of aid which it carries to be unloaded and transferred to the Gaza strip.

Delegates from the Libyan embassy in Cairo were in el-Arish to help coordinate the transfer of aid, he added.

The Amalthea, originally heading for Gaza, arrived in the el-Arish port late Wednesday after being intercepted by the Israeli navy. The captain apparently agreed to reroute and not try to breach Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza.

Despite earlier reports that the ship had docked upon its arrival, it had been waiting in the port overnight as harbour officials awaited further instruction from Cairo.

According to the instructions received from officials in Cairo so far, the ship’s medical aid will be delivered to Gaza through Egypt’s Rafah border crossing, 40 km from the port, Abdelmaksoud said.

Food aid would be delivered through the Karam or the al-Awja border crossings, he added.

The aid ship’s organisers had previously said they were determined to reach the Gaza Strip in defiance of the Israeli blockade and measures to prevent them from doing so.

On the last leg of its journey, two Israeli ships shadowed the Amalthea’s port side to ensure that it did not change course in the direction of Gaza.

According to the Amalthea’s captain, the ship’s main engine was broken Wednesday, causing it to move extremely slowly.

Its passengers include 15 pro-Palestinian activists, most of them Libyans, but also one Nigerian, one Algerian and one Moroccan. The crew of 12 are from Haiti, Syria and India.

The ship, commissioned by Libya’s Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, sailed from Greece July 10.

Israel placed the Gaza Strip under blockade four years ago, after militants from the salient staged a cross-border raid and snatched an Israeli soldier, who is still being held captive in the enclave.

While Israel relaxed the siege last month and now allows in most civilian goods, the naval blockade remains in place, as Israel says it will now allow weapons, or materials used in weapons production, to enter the Gaza Strip, which is governed by the Islamist Hamas movement.

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