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Libyan Gaza-Bound Aid Ship Enters Egyptian Port

The Moldova-flagged cargo ship "Amalthea" was loaded with supplies at the port of Lavrio, about 60 kilometers southeast of Athens, on July 9.
A Libyan-chartered ship carrying aid for Palestinians has reached an Egyptian port after altering its course.

An Egyptian official said the Moldovan-flagged "Amalthea" arrived in El-Arish, on Egypt's Mediterranean coast about 45 kilometers south of the border with Gaza, in mid-evening and would begin unloading cargo.

The Libyan charity, the Qaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, has chartered a ship to deliver aid to Gaza.

Israel had vowed to turn away or seize the Moldovan-flagged "Amalthea" if it tried to break the three-year-old Gaza blockade.

The situation raised concerns of possible violence after Israeli soldiers killed nine Turks after boarding an aid flotilla in May.

Israel sent four missile ships to shadow the Moldovan vessel, which earlier today was idling 130 kilometers off the Gaza coast, citing engine trouble.

Israeli Minister of Science Daniel Hershkovitz on July 11 reiterated Israel's no-entry policy in remarks to reporters in Jerusalem.

"Israel hasn't changed its policy, and its policy is very clear," Hershkovitz said. "No ships were allowed to arrive at Gaza, so if they want to transfer the humanitarian equipment to the people in Gaza they are welcome to do it through [the Israeli port of] Ashdod."

The Greek-owned, Moldovan-flagged ship's aid journey is sponsored by a group chaired by Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's son, Said al-Islam Qaddafi. It is said to be carrying 2,000 tons of humanitarian aid with 12 crew members and 15 pro-Palestinian activists on board.

Ship owner Alex Angelopoulos told RFE/RL's Moldova Service that his vessel has sailed multiple times under a Moldovan flag in the past few months.

He said that "Moldovans should be proud" that the aid ship is flying their flag, but added that "no ship under a Moldovan flag would break any embargo of its free will."

Egypt earlier promised that if the ship docks in Egypt's El-Arish port, the aid will be transported to Gaza by land.

Also today, officials in Greece say members of a communist-backed labor union supporting the aid ship delayed an Israel-bound flight from taking off at Athens International Airport to protest Israeli policies.

Israeli forces have seized several ships carrying aid to Gaza over the past month, including the much-criticized and deadly May 31 raid.

with agency reports