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Saturday July 10, 2010 12:11 PM (EST+7)
Aid ship to sail from Greece for blockaded Gaza

Read more: Libya, convoy, aid convoy, Freedom Flotilla, Greece, blockade, closure

LAVRIO, Greece, July 9 (Reuters) - A ship carrying aid for Palestinians will leave for Gaza on Friday or early Saturday, just over a month after a deadly Israeli raid on an aid flotilla trying to break the blockade of the impoverished territory.

A charity chaired by the Libyan Leader's reformist son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi is organising the trip and said the vessel would carry some 2,000 tons of food and medicine and complied with international rules.

Nine pro-Palestinian activists died in May when Israeli marines stormed a Turkish aid ship heading a Gaza-bound convoy, prompting world outcry, a crisis in Israeli-Turkish relations and a condemnation from the United Nations Security Council.

Israel said its commandoes were attacked with knives and sticks when they boarded the ship and acted in self-defence.

We are doing what we can, if everybody steps back and says the Israelis will not allow it, nothing will happen and the people of Gaza will starve, said Youssef Sawani, executive director of the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, which is organising the aid trip.

We hope everything will go smoothly, he told reporters on Friday on board the Amalthea vessel, re-named Hope for the trip.

Ten supporters of the charity will be on board, as well as 12 crew, Sawani said in the south-eastern Greek port of Lavrio. The activists are Libyan apart from one Nigerian and a Moroccan. The crew include Cubans, Haitians, Syrians and Indians.

We will try to explain to the others that we are just helping people, we have nothing in the ship except rice, oil, tomatoes and flour, that's all we have, we don't have weapons, said Fabdalraof Jaziri, a Libyan engineer who will take part in the trip.

Israel has said its blockade was necessary to stop arms and materials it fears could be used for military purposes from reaching Gaza's Hamas Islamist rulers.

In the wake of the raid and the international outrage it caused, it has announced steps to ease the blockade of the enclave and set up an inquiry into the incident.

Sawani said he hoped to sail on Friday or early Saturday and the trip would take 70 to 80 hours. (Reporting by Gina Kalovyrna, writing by Ingrid Melander, editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)







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