By Ola Attallah – Gaza City
The Israeli navy prevented on Monday, December 1, a Libyan aid ship from sailing into Gaza, sending a clear warning to Arabs not to try to break its long-running suffocating siege of the impoverished territory.
"Israel does not want the Libyan ship to be the first episode in a series of Arab support ships to Gaza," Adnan Abu-Amer, a Palestinian analyst, told IslamOnline.net.
Israeli warships earlier in the day prevented the Libyan cargo vessel Al-Marwa, laden with 3,000 tones of urgently-needed aid, from sailing into the Gaza Strip.
The ship was stopped several kilometers off Gaza shores and ordered to return to the Egyptian port of El-Arish.
"This is an attempt to reinforce the stifling siege imposed on Gazans," MP Jamal Khodary who heads the Anti-Siege Campaign, told IOL.
Despite international criticism, Israel remains adamant on closing all commercial crossings with the densely populated Gaza Strip, home of 1.6 million.
The closure has again highlighted the plight of people in the overcrowded sliver of land whose economy has been crippled by a blockade Israel imposed after Hamas seized power in June 2007.
Human Rights Watch has slammed Israel’s fuel and power cuts to the people of Gaza as a violation of the law of war.
Analysts believe Israel was sending a very clear message.
"Israel could not allow such expression of Arab solidarity with Gaza," says Abu Amer, the analyst.
"There were reports talking about more ships coming from Qatar and Yemen. Israel just couldn’t allow Arab aid boats to sail freely into Gaza."
The Qatar Charity Organization confirmed Monday plans to ship one tone of medical aid to Gaza later this week in a bid to break the Israeli blockade.
Hani Al-Masry, a Palestinian author and analyst, agrees.
"Israel does not want to see more ships coming from countries like Egypt or Jordan," he said.
"It wants to nip in the bud an uprising of aid ships to Gaza, whether Arab or Western."
The Libyan attempt to deliver aid to Gaza was the first such effort by an Arab country.
European and other pro-Palestinian activists have made three trips to break the Israeli siege over the past three months.
Just last October, the second boat of the Free Gaza Movement docked in Gaza carrying human rights advocates from around the world and half a ton of medical supplies.
"These ships are not symbolic anymore," says Abu-Amer.
"They carry tones of medicine and food to the territory, and take back with them Palestinian students and patients.
"They also convey to the world the worsened situation Gazans suffer under the Israeli siege."
– Ola Attallah is a correspondent for IslamOnline in Gaza. (Originally published in IslamOnline.net.)