Malaysia’s government has urged Israel not to take any action that could harm people aboard a Malaysian-funded Irish aid ship, now heading to Gaza.
The MV Rachel Corrie is carrying 11 activists, including Mairead Corrigan, a Nobel Peace laureate, and eight crew members, just days after another aid vessel was boarded by Israeli soldiers who killed nine activists.
Anifah Aman, Malaysia’s foreign affairs minister, said in a statement issued late on Thursday that the Israeli authorities should ensure a safe passage for the vessel to Gaza to deliver the humanitarian cargo.
The Rachel Corrie is funded by Perdana Global Peace Organisation, a Malaysian non-governmental organisation headed by Mahathir Mohamad, the country’s former prime minister.
The vessel hoped to arrive in Gaza on Saturday with a cargo of humanitarian aid.
Safe Passage Sought
Shamsul Akmar, one of the activists aboard the ship, told Al Jazeera that all the people on board are all peace activists.
"We do not know what to expect, but hope that we will be given safe passage to get the aid to Gaza," he said.
Despite fears of an Israeli attack, the peace activists are determined to try and break through the blockade.
"If the Israeli army attacks us and tries to board our ship, we will not attempt any resistance," Shamsul said.
"We will take our boat, as far as possible and if they do come on board forcefully, we will not resist."
The ship is named after an American woman who was killed by an Israeli military bulldozer in the Gaza Strip in 2003, while trying to protest a house demolition.
Brian Cowen, the Irish prime minister, asked Israel to permit the Irish-owned aid ship to dock in Gaza.
Israel has offered to escort the vessel and deliver the civilian aid for it and said Egypt was prepared to do the same.
But the activists said that they were concerned that not all cargo would be delivered.
The ship has medical equipment, school supplies and cement, a material Israel has banned from entering Gaza.
Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister, said that Israel would not allow its Gaza blockade to be breached.
"No ship will reach Gaza. The Rachel Corrie will not reach Gaza," he told Israel Radio.
Mathias Chang, an activist from the Perdana Global Peace Organisation on board the ship, said that they were aware of the risk that the Israelis may intercept them, but were still determined to go ahead.
"We have told the whole world, and we have told the Israeli media and television, that we are peace activists," Chang said.
"If and when they intercept us, we will be waiting on the top deck of the ship, with nothing but the clothes on our backs."
(Al Jazeera and Agencies)