JERUSALEM, July 11 (Reuters) - Israel
will not allow an aid ship
sent by a Libyan group to reach Gaza, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Sunday, just over a month after Israeli commandos killed nine activists in a raid at sea.
I say very clearly, no ship will arrive in Gaza. We will not permit our sovereignty to be harmed, Lieberman said on Army Radio, referring to Israel's naval blockade of the Palestinian territory controlled by Hamas
The Moldovan-flagged Amalthea, renamed Hope, left Greece on Saturday bound for Gaza on a trip organised by a charity chaired by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. The group said the ship was carrying some 2,000 tons of food and medicine and complied with international rules.
Organisers said the vessel, with 12 crew and up to 10 activists on board, would head for Gaza but go to Egypt's port of El-Arish instead if banned from reaching its destination in a voyage expected to take between 70 and 80 hours.
I hope very much that common sense will prevail and the ship will go to El-Arish, or that it will obey the Israel Defence Forces and eventually go to (Israel's port of) Ashdod, Lieberman said.
Israel's blockade of the coastal strip has been under closer international scrutiny since it sent commandos to raid an aid flotilla on May 31, killing nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists. Israel said those troops acted in self-defence after passengers attacked them with metal rods and knives.
Israel said on Saturday it had contacted Greek, Egyptian and Moldovan authorities to make sure the lastest ship, chartered by the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, would not attempt to reach Gaza.
Youssef Sawani, executive director of the Libyan charity, said before the Moldovan ship left Greece that its mission was peaceful and its sole goal was have its humanitarian cargo delivered to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
It's not to make an event or a show in high seas or somewhere else, Sawani said.
Israel says the blockade is needed to keep arms from Hamas.
The United Nations says the blockade has led to a humanitarian crisis for the Gaza Strip's 1.5 million people, of whom about 1 million depend to some extent on regular supplies of U.N. and other foreign aid.
Following the international outrage caused by its raid on the aid flotilla, Israel eased the land blockade of the enclave and set up an inquiry into the incident. (Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Additional reporting by Reuters TV in Lavrio and Lefteris Papadimas in Athens; Editing by Peter Graff)