The Israeli Navy reportedly blockades a Libyan-chartered aid vessel which has set sail for the blockaded Gaza Strip, issuing threats against the convoy.
"Israeli warships are surrounding and threatening the cargo ship. There is a real threat," said Yussef Sawan, the executive director of the Tripoli-based Gaddafi International Charity and Development Association, AFP reported.
The organization tasked the seaborne mission on board the Moldova-flagged cargo ship, Amalthea, to break Tel Aviv’s years-long siege of Gaza. The vessel is carrying 12 crewmembers and 2,000 tons of relief supplies from Greece to the impoverished sliver.
Communications with the ship are being jammed, Sawan added, pointing at possible electronic obstructions against the humanitarian effort.
The bid follows the Israeli commandos’ May 31 killing of nine Turks among the Freedom Flotilla, a hundreds-strong aid convoy, which intended to fulfill the same mission. The attack sent shockwaves across the world and gave rise to global calls for an international investigation into the incident.
Tel Aviv, however, subsequently insisted it will not allow any seaborne convoys to reach the strip. "I say very clearly, no ship will arrive in Gaza. We will not permit our sovereignty to be harmed," Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Army Radio on Sunday. Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak also branded the bid as "unnecessary provocation."
Israel, meanwhile, campaigned to seek foreign cooperation against the effort, while obliging the ship head either towards the port of El-Arish in Egypt or the Israeli port of Ashdod. Sawan earlier denied reports that the ship was heading towards El-Arish.
Mashallah Zwei, a representative for the Libyan charity, who is accompanying the mission, had clarified earlier that the organization was not seeking "a confrontation or a provocation."
"We only have food, medicine and young pacifists on the boat." "The Israelis can inspect the ship and if they have an ounce of humanity they will let us unload in Gaza," he added, calling for international pressure on the regime not to disrupt the relief bid.